...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Friday, April 30, 2004
      ( 3:12 PM )
Most Beautiful Sound in the World

Oh one more thing I forgot to mention (I don't know how). This morning came some lovely music to this mama's ears, for the very first time as I lifted an almost-2-year-old out of his crib:

"g'mo-nin, mommy."


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      ( 3:11 PM )

Well, so much for my Dialogue Fridays. I'm so bogged down by work and wiped out from the week, no more posting till Monday. Hopefully starting up fresh on Monday. Happy 1 Year Anniversary of Mission Accomplshed. I'm sure there will be party hats and kazoos galore tomorrow. Not.

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      ( 10:04 AM )
What We Believe To Be True

Thanks to laertes for the heads up: here is the link to the latest from Paul Krugman. It starts out with an old, yet frighteningly appropriate quote:

We are all capable of believing things which we know to be
untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong,
impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were
right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process
for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or
later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually
on a battlefield." That's from George Orwell's 1946 essay
"In Front of Your Nose."

We are all aware that tomorrow marks one year since the infamous landing on the aircraft carrier and dress-up act that Bush did. I'm sure the administration is happy the anniversary falls on a Saturday so that it can try to sneak by unnoticed the fact that since Bush declared "mission accomplished," the mission has completely gone to hell in a handbasket.

We all know that there were lies told, we all know that we and the Iraqi people were manipulated and misled. We all know that ineptness has been the name of the game from day one over there. Krugman points out that this administration had a chance to turn things around, but it refused and stuck to its stubborn insistence that it's tunnel-visioned view of things would succeed.

The problem isn't with the lies and manipulation. The problem is how long will Americans continue to try to convince themselves that they are true, or that they don't matter? The DO matter. The problem created by our country in the middle east is a BIG, BIG problem - it's not just some Gulf War skirmish that is going to go away soon. As Wolfowitz demonstrated before Congress yesterday, even those in charge are flippant and uncaring about the true cost of this war:

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

Since the war started, American casualties are at 722. I don't even think Wolfowitz or this administration will care when it reaches 1,000 or 2,000 or when Iraqi casulaties in Fallujah start coming out now that the marines are pulling back.

This is not about what they are trying to sell us, it's about what we're buying. We don't have to go along with it. Americans' daily diet of "reality tv" doesn't seem to include actual reality. I'm long past hoping this administration will change, that someone will see the light and start telling the truth. But I'm still stuck at wondering what is going on the hearts and minds of Americans who continue to believe that all is well and that we should just "stay the course."

I've said it before and I'll say it again. True patriotism isn't repeating the government's line - true patriotism is seeing the truth, declaring it loudly and standing up for it in order to make this country stronger.

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      ( 9:37 AM )
McCain on Censorship

Sen. John McCain has taken a stand. Again. Thank goodness there are some out there willing to speak out for what is true. I'm linking to Drudge on this one, but don't get used to it.

Of course I disagree with the Senator on many issues, not least of which is support of this war. But Sinclair Broadcasting has gone too far in censoring Nightline tonight. What Koppel is doing is telling the truth, with no embellishment, and in an honorable way. Americans have been shielded from the truth about war too much - it's all big bombs and night vision on CNN and Fox. But the toll it is taking on our soldiers' lives and their families, not to mention the horrific burden the Iraqis are bearing, is not being revealed to the citizens of this country. Sinclair Broadcasting has proven that corporate interests are the interests of this President, and those interests boil down to one thing: keeping him in power. THAT'S where the media bias is.

The Senator, in his public letter to Sinclair:

But every American has a responsibility to understand
fully the terrible costs of war and the extraordinary
sacrifices it requires of those brave men and women
who volunteer to defend the rest of us; lest we ever
forget or grow insensitive to how grave a decision it is
for our government to order Americans into combat. It
is a solemn responsibility of elected officials to accept
responsibility for our decision and its consequences,
and, with those who disseminate the news, to ensure
that Americans are fully informed of those consequences.

There is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its
responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided
attempt to prevent your viewers from completely
appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their
behalf by Americans serving in Iraq. War is an awful, but
sometimes necessary business. Your decision to deny
your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war's
terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross
disservice to the public, and to the men and women
of the United States Armed Forces. It is, in short, sir,
unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium
it most certainly deserves.

Feelin' some opprobrium comin' on right about now.

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Thursday, April 29, 2004
      ( 4:33 PM )
1,000 Words

Pictures of the war. You can't look at these and still pretend it's all okay. Let's get real.

Thanks to Michael Miller at Public Domain Progress for the link.

UPDATE on the Horrors of War:
This is not good. Not only are reservists being used in jobs they're not trained for - their lack of training is trickling down into really hideous stuff. It's only going to get worse - for us and for them.

UPDATE 2: Daily Kos has a new post up - the fallout has begun from the 60 Minutes II story - and we have lost the hearts and minds (as if we hadn't long ago). Kos also picks up on something I mentioned several days ago regarding the (accountable-to-no-one) mercs having war criminals among their ranks, including men who participated in assaults on civilians in Northern Ireland and in South Africa.

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      ( 4:27 PM )
New Blogs! New Blogs!

Just found some new favorites I wanted to share with you all. One is not so new, but it's new to me: Wanda's Words on a Page has been around as long as I have and I can't believe I haven't seen it before! It's got a huge amount of info pulled in from all over the place -- and watch out, your cursor will get very activist once you hit Wanda's blog!

The other is an addition to the Oregon blogging team - Wink Wink. Like this here little outpost, Wink Wink is a great mix of lefty commentary on everything, including some great stuff on our home state. I found this gem there today: A Powerpoint presentation of the President's 8/6/01 Daily Briefing.

Finally, it probably comes as no surprise that I don't often read conservative leaning blogs. However, the writer of one of these blogs stopped by here last week and I thought I would return the favor. We exchanged emails because I was intrigued and wanted to start a dialogue in the interest of trying to learn more about how conservatives view things (since I freely confess I don't get it). So I am going to start a new Friday installment. It will be my Dialogue With La Shawn. La Shawn Barber is a very well-published writer for conservative and religious magazines and has started her own blog. She is a black christian evangelical and unapologetically pro-Bush conservative.

I find that when I read her blog, I pretty much disagree with everything she says. But she is a very good writer, and I can tell that she has a lot of belief, feeling and thought behind her posts. I also find the comments from her readers incredibly fascinating. I posted my first comment there this week. If you go to read her blog and you're a lefty, read it with grace and curiosity and don't be rude, please.

What I found really interesting was that she and I see the same issue in such diametrically opposite ways. For instance, she is convinced the media is completely left-leaning and Bush-bashing and I can't see that at all. I see a media that cowtows to its corporate ownership, blacks out virtually all liberal views, and doesn't really question this administration on anything. I don't understand how she can come to her conclusion, as I'm sure she can't understand how I come to mine. In fact, we are opposite in more ways than just politics. She says that she used to be a liberal but then made her way into the Christian evangelical / politically conservative world where she now thrives. Me, I started out in that world, growing up in that community and then leaving it in my early 20's to become a much happier and much more stress-free lefty. But the fact that we realize each other's opinions exist may do a whole lot more with regard to bringing people together in this country than pulling us apart. I'm trying to find something in common with La Shawn, though so far I haven't. But I'm determined and when I do, I will use that to show myself that see, we're not all that different after all! I'm an optimist, what can I say? So look for my new installments on attempting to create some dialogue. I have a degree in conflict resolution, I might as well try to use it, right?

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      ( 9:40 AM )
Censorship Again

Well, looks like several station owners refuse to air the Nightline episode tomorrow night that plans to name all the soldiers killed in combat in Iraq. Atrios, via Athenae, reports that the Sinclair media group (on the east coast) feels that such an airing would be "contrary to the public interest." The Sinclair Group seems to think it's more important to tell happy stories than to tell the truth.

If you are in the Sinclair Broadcast Group's areas (check Atrios for affiliates), then take some action. We don't need to be protected from the truth by corporate shills for the president who don't want Americans to have the facts (that our sons and daughters are being killed every day) on which to form opinions.

CBS caved to conservative pressure not to air a meaningless miniseries about Reagan because it told the truth (Reagan really did do nothing to stop AIDS when he could have). And now the corporate media is deciding that Americans don't need to have the option to view an honorable memorial to those who are dying. It's just better to ignore them, I suppose. I'm getting creeped out by how our world is turning into Oceania and I'm feeling more and more like Winston Smith. This stuff really pisses me off.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004
      ( 9:32 AM )
Setting the Record Straight - Again

As most of my readers well know, I have not been an enthusiastic supporter of John Kerry. I was Howard Dean all the way because I felt that not only did the country need a change, but so did the Democratic party. It felt like the party just went back to it same old Washington insider/centrist leaning past with Kerry. Of course, in comparison with George Bush, John Kerry looks like a vast improvement in leadership and composure. But in the last week I've been watching as Kerry begins to take on the attacks that have been freely flowing at him the last month, and I am starting to be pursuaded that he is going to be a formidable candidate.

I couldn't understand why the Bush camp would open up the can of worms about past military service by questioning Kerry and demanding his full disclosure of his military records. He has done so, including his medical records. Not satisfied that he truly did serve with honor and distinction, they questioned his purple hearts, saying that at least his first injury "wasn't that bad." The question of whether they realize that a purple heart is earned by anyone who is injured in combat didn't seem to phase them, considering that not one of the top leaders of this current administration has ever seen combat... and in fact did everything they could to avoid it.

Then they started this whole ruckus over Kerry's wording about his medals/ribbons. Anyone in the military or the kid of anyone in the military (like me) knows that these two words are interchangeable. Not only did Kerry not lie or shift his story or "flip flop" but he boldly told the truth: he came home from serving in a devastating war and wanted to do everything he could to stop that from happening to other young men - the throwing of the ribbons/medals was an act of spontaneity during an event that was unlike political events of today, where everything is choreographed and scripted. He not only volunteered and fought in the war, but when he came home he took a courageous and honorable stand.

The RNC made a huge deal out of Clinton going to Oxford during the war, calling him a "draft dodger" and worse. And yet they are shocked - shocked! - that Bush and Cheney's records could be questioned - even after they've attacked Kerry on his records. But the republicans want us to measure John Kerry's past by today's politics (and at the same time leave the president out of it):

In the heat of a political campaign, attacks come from all
directions. That's why John Kerry's military records are so
compelling; they measure the man before his critics or his
supporters saw him through a political lens. These military
records show that John Kerry served his country with
valor, and that those who served with him and above him
held him in high regard. That's honor enough for any veteran.

Yet the Republican attack machine follows a pattern
we've seen before, whether the target is Senator
John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 or Senator Max
Cleland in Georgia in 2002. The latest manifestation
of these tactics is the controversy over Mr. Kerry's medals


Republicans have tried to use this event to question
his patriotism and his truthfulness, claiming he has
been inconsistent in saying whether he threw away
his medals or ribbons. This is no more than a political
smear. After risking his life in Vietnam to save others,
John Kerry earned the right to speak out against a
war he believed was wrong. Make no mistake: it is
that bravery these Republicans are now attacking.

Although President Bush has not engaged personally
in such accusations, he has done nothing to stop
others from making them. I believe those who didn't
serve, or didn't show up for service, should have the
decency to respect those who did serve ? often
under the most dangerous conditions, with bravery
and, yes, with undeniable patriotism.

... that last word from the Supreme Commander himself, Wesley Clark.

I'm not so concerned about a war 30 years ago. I'm concerned about one going on right now. George Bush doesn't want us to see the coffins of the hundreds of dead coming home - yet he's willing to use a picture of a coffin of a fireman at 9/11 in a campaign ad. THAT'S the kind of character we should be questioning this election.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2004
      ( 4:23 PM )

The pres has a thing for bald heads.

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      ( 4:20 PM )

On Nightline this Friday, something unprecedented:

Now I want to tell you about this Friday’s broadcast.
We’re going to do something different, something that
we think is important. Friday night, we will show you
the pictures, and Ted will read the names, of the men
and women from the armed forces who have been
killed in combat in Iraq. That’s it. That will be the whole
broadcast. Nightline has been reporting on the
casualties under the heading of “Line of Duty.”

But we realized that we seemed to just be giving
numbers. So many killed in this incident, so many more
in that attack. Whether you agree with the war or not,
these men and women are serving, are putting their
lives on the line, in our names. We think it is important
to remember that those who have paid the ultimate
price all have faces, and names, and loved ones. We
thought about doing this on Memorial Day, but that’s
a time when most media outlets do stories about the
military, and they are generally lost in the holiday
crush of picnics and all. We didn’t want this broadcast
to get lost. Honestly, I don’t know if people will watch
this for thirty seconds, or ten minutes, or at all. That’s
not the point. We think this is important. These men
and women have earned nothing less.

What with this and pictures of the solemn honor given to all the coffins coming home, people might actually start realizing that this president has caused the death of hundreds of our own citizens for no particularly good reason at all.

Pay some respect and watch Nightline on Friday. Or better yet, tape it and watch it with others over the weekend. It's not too much to ask that we take an hour out of our lives to honor those who are dying in their duty as our servicemen and women. I find it sad that they can't list ALL those who have died, including the Iraqis (remember, for every one of ours killed, at least 50-100 Iraqis have been killed).

By the way, if you don't watch PBS' News Hour, then you should. But more to the point, the News Hour has been airing pictures of the fallen silently after each broadcast for weeks now.

(thanks to Atrios for the link)

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      ( 2:12 PM )

There is a lot of news going on today - the US is currently bombing the hell out of downtown Fallujah and I am praying that all the citizens there will somehow be spared. The president and his minions continue to think that they can scoff at the military record of John Kerry while remaining unscathed by the fact that they are governed by draft dodgers and cowards. The Supreme Court is proving its God-complex by hearing a case about Dick Cheney's desire to put all power in the executive branch where Scalia should have recused himself.

But today I got GOOD NEWS. As some of you longtime readers may know, I lived briefly and worked in Northern Ireland for some time and have many friends who are like family there. Today's news is wonderful to me on both a personal and a more general level.

Today three men are free who have spent the last 21/2 years in horrifying Colombian prisons. They are three Irish men who were arrested in August 2001 in Bogota. They were held on evidence supplied by US federal agents (later proved to be faked and wholly false evidence) and accused of working with the FARC. Then September 11 happened, and they became three very small pawns in a very big game. The US used its power in Colombia to influence the Irish peace process over the arrests of these three men. The Irish governmenet protested the arrests and lobbied the US government and Colombia for their release. As their case progressed, evidence put forth by prosecutors fell apart. The judge was between a rock and a hard place - judges in Colombia don't have an easy job if they want to be impartial. The case was argued and it was obvious to all that the men were not guilty of the charges. But still there was no verdict. They languished in some of the most heinous and dangerous prisons in the world.

But today the verdict came in. The judge found them guilty of nothing more than traveling on false passports, a conviction with a sentence of deportment. Which means that after payment of small fines, they will finally be free to go home to their families.

It was a long 2 1/2 years for us as we are close, personal friends with one of these men and his family, and in fact our child is named for him. I am almost weak with happiness today that there has been a small victory for justice in the world, that the US has not been able to pound its will upon everyone, that a judge somewhere in Colombia took a chance for truth, and that hopefully this time next week, there will be three families who won't be letting go of each other any time soon.

In these times of big and horrible wars, of killing and of oil prices and of elections - sometimes we forget that things are happening in the world to give us hope. Somewhere in the world people are fighting for their corner of peace, people are struggling for their piece of justice, and today, some people are celebrating freedom that was not possible only ten years ago. Hooray for the side of humanity that shows us there is hope in this world.

And sometimes there is justice.

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Monday, April 26, 2004
      ( 4:47 PM )
Are There Really That Many Dum-Dums in America?

Juan Cole tackles the possible reason why a recent poll said that 57% of people STILL believe that Saddam Hussein gave assistance to Al Qaeda, and 45% believe there is "clear evidence" saying so, and a tragic 45% STILL believe that Hussein had WMD:

Why would so many Americans cling to patently
false beliefs? One can only speculate of course. But
I would suggest that the two-party system in the US
has produced a two-party epistemology. Epistemology
is the study of how we know what we know. If it
were accepted that Saddam had virtually nothing to
do with al-Qaeda, that he had no weapons of mass
destruction (nor any significant programs for
producing them), and that no evidence for such
things has been uncovered after the US and its allies
have had a year to comb through Baath documents
-- if all that is accepted, then President Bush's
credibility would suffer. For his partisans, it is
absolutely crucial that the president retain his
credibility. Therefore, rather than face reality, they
re-jigger it to create a fantasy world in which Saddam
and Usamah are buddies (as in the Jimmy Fallon/
Horatio Sanz skits on the American comedy show,
Saturday Night Live), and in which David Kay (of
whom respondents say they've never heard) never
recanted his earlier belief that the WMD was
there somewhere.

He goes on to show that 72% of those who believe the crap about the WMDs plan to vote for Bush. So his conclusion, and rightly so I think, is that if 57% of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was supporting Al Qaeda, then no small number of Democratic voters are included therein. And thus, the Democrats are really falling short on the whole "EXPLAIN THE TRUTH CLEARLY" strategy. The neocons are doing their best to continue to spread the myths around, as is seen in Schlesinger's testimony last week, described by Cole.

It's bad enough that this administration is basing its entire foreign policy and election strategy on a mountain of lies. But worse than that is that the Dems are unable to focus on the fact that the mountain is precariously balanced and if even one of those lies were to be permanently fixed on the public's consciousness, then the mountain would fall. Even today, Josh Marshall noted that ABC ran a web headline declaring "Did John Kerry Lie about Vietnam War Medals?" which they later altered (and which John Kerry has eloquently responded to) - Yet when have they or any other news outlet ONCE used the word "lie" when it comes to the massive amounts of blatant mistruths that continue to flow out of the white house? Is it so hard to simply report the truth - to characterize a lie as a lie, to tell what is actually going on? How hard is it to say, "The president today once again drew a connection between September 11 and the ongoing war in Iraq, however, it has been proven that there is no evidence connecting Saddam Hussein to any Al Qaeda operation, including 9/11." How hard can it be to tell the truth? Evidenly really, really hard - since 57% of Americans still insist, even to the detriment of the country's reputation and the lives of American soldiers, that what has been solidly proven a lie is the truth.

Perhaps it's time for a very simple message to go up on billboards around the country: "THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES - and P.S. SADDAM HAD NO WMDs"


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      ( 11:15 AM )
The Geriatric Police Beat(ing)

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, the Portland Police are once again defending themselves in an incident where two white cops pulled over a black motorist for a minor traffic violation and the motorist (unarmed) ended up dead. In the most recent incident, the cops shot James Perez dead within 30 seconds of pulling him over. A grand jury failed to get an indictment of the copy who shot Mr. Perez, so the city is going forward with a public inquest (which won't solve anything or bring any justice, but will at least allow the story to be told publicly instead of remain secret).

But this week, the Portland Police Department's inability to train its officers to deal with any sort of conflict situation with anything other than overt violence really brought shame on them. The department had to settle a lawsuit for $145,000 (should have been more, in my book) brought by Ms. Eunice Crowder. Ms. Crowder is a 71-year old blind woman who was beaten, pepper sprayed, tazered and thrown in jail by the cops last year.

Eunice Crowder, you see, didn't follow orders. Eunice
was uncooperative. Worried a city employee was hauling
away a family heirloom, a 90-year-old red toy wagon,
she had the nerve to feel her way toward the trailer
in which her yard debris was being tossed.

Enter the police. Eunice, who is hard of hearing,
ignored the calls of Officers Robert Miller and Eric
Zajac to leave the trailer. When she tried, unsuccessfully,
to bite the hands that were laid on her, she was
knocked to the ground.

When she kicked out at the cops, she was pepper-
sprayed in the face with such force that her prosthetic
marble eye was dislodged. As she lay on her stomach,
she was Tased four times with Zajac's electric stun gun.

And when Nellie Scott, Eunice's 94-year-old mother,
tried to rinse out her daughter's eye with water from
a two-quart Tupperware bowl, what does Miller do?
According to Ernie Warren Jr., Eunice's lawyer, the cop
pushed Nellie up against a fence and accused her of
planning to use the water as a weapon.

So, not content to bully young black men and women, the Portland police seem to feel that even little old blind women are deserving of a smack-down. The police seem to feel that everyone is blaming them lately - they ask constantly for understanding and support because their jobs are so terribly difficult. In the words of the head of the police union:

"What sets us apart from people like most of you is that
you'll never face a situation in your job where -- in less than
10 seconds -- the routine can turn to truly life-threatening,"
King wrote. "When that happens to us, when we have to
make that ultimate split-second decision, we don't just ask
for your understanding, we ask for your support."

Well, I guess Ms. Crowder is lucky they didn't use their normal split-second choice, which seems to be pulling out their guns and shooting. The training of this police force is woeful - the fact that they are trained only in aggressive, offensive skills - such as shooting people - and have no training in conflict resolution, de-escalation of tense situations, or even proper use of non-lethal tactics, leads me to believe that the incidents of unarmed citizens being abused or even killed by the police will only increase.

Don't ask us to support you when you can't see any choices beyond shooting your weapons at traffic stops or beating up old blind women. Don't ask us to support a police department that is more intent on defending itself and preserving the status quo than it is focused on systemic change and investing in community relations. Don't ask us to support you when you consider us, the citizens, your enemies. And don't expect me to raise my son believing that the cops are "peacekeepers" and "protectors." Shame on you, Portland Police. Shame.

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      ( 10:29 AM )
Shifting Standards

Shorter Weekly Standard:

In 1959, John Kennedy being a Catholic was a threat to American voters because he might take orders from the Pope.

In 2004, John Kerry being a Catholic is a threat to American voters because he won't take orders from the Pope.

(aplogies to BusyBusyBusy)

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Thursday, April 22, 2004
      ( 9:09 AM )
Mama Goes Granola

Happy Earth Day! I was never much of an environmental activist like I have been a social justice and political activist, but the environment was always a big factor and concern for me when I voted. Today on Earth Day I note that the president intends to point out all the "good" he has done for the environment. In fact he has been the worst thing for our environment since coal was discovered. He talks about using innovation and technology and yet he has stifled the innovation and technology in developing alternative fuel sources and he's re-enacted age old bans on all sorts of bad mining practices that have been destroying land all over Appalachia. He has enacted his "Healthy Forests" act, which has devastating effect on old growth forests by allowing the clear cutting timber industry to take down forests that they were previously blocked from. His "Clear Skies" act has re-instituted some of the worst polluting allowances for industry and allowed the polluting plants to police themselves.

I understand how much power there is in oil, but wouldn't that power be redistributed back to us if we could develop our own fuel sources? I don't really understand what blocks this new industry from emerging -- except for the lobbying of the oil companies that have the Bush Administration in their pockets (which is no small influence). But think about it, developing new fuel industries would create jobs, open up new fields of expertise for rising students, release us from our dependancy on Middle East oil, allow us to actually export a product that helps the world instead of cripples it, and might even allow us to live a little longer. I don't see a downside.

At the rate we're going, we're using up the earth's natural resources quicker than we can save it. I hope that humans will get smart and realize that we aren't here to dominate nature, we must co-exist with it. As much as it keeps us alive, we must also keep it alive. We're part of a system, not the controllers of the system. I hope that we will catch on before it's too late.

Meanwhile, thank you, Mother Earth for providing us air to breathe, trees to sit under, water to drink, and a place to hang our hats in the universe. I hope you'll be healthy and strong when it comes my child's time to inherit your goodness.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2004
      ( 3:41 PM )
The Price We Pay

The spoils of this war are not going to the most exalted members of the human race, that's for sure. Marketplace's series on where the $22 billion is spilling away to is striking:

Who's watching the money as it streams through
Baghdad? Just about no one, and bribes and black
marketeering are rampant, witnesses say. A
leading anti-corruption group claims that massive
amounts of U.S. money spent in Iraq is being lost to
corruption. From Halliburton subsidiaries charging
double for gas, Iraqi officials and Arabic translators
unrestrained from pocketing millions of dollars, or
even members of the interim governing Council
accusing each other of taking tens of millions in
bribes. Trouble is, the root of the problem can't be
found anywhere near the Green Zone. Try the White
House, and Capitol Hill, where oversight of Iraqi
construction crews and U.S. contractors like Halliburton
has only just begun to be assigned? more than a
year after the war began.

But our taxpayer dollars aren't just being frittered away to corruption. Nope, while our soldiers struggle to find bullet proof armor and their families at home must go to food banks to survive, our tax dollars are paying thousands of "contractors" - mercenaries, more to the point -- to do the work that might have been done by solders, if there were enough (then again, some of the things these mercs are doing would never be done by soldiers). These mercenaries, four of whom were murdered and their bodies mutilated by locals in Fallujah a few weeks ago, are paid anywhere from $100,000-300,000/year and are not under the command of any of our military units. Yet our tax dollars pay those nice big salaries. And where do we get our mercenaries?

Body and Soul reminds us that many of them come from South Africa - or more specifically, out of the South African Defense Force and South African Police. One of the mercs killed last week was infamous:

A security contractor killed in Iraq last week was once
one of South Africa's most secret covert agents, his
identity guarded so closely that even the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission did not discover the
extent of his involvement in apartheid's silent wars.

Gray Branfield, 55, admitted to being part of a death
squad which gunned down Joe Gqabi, the ANC's
chief representative and Umkhonto weSizwe
operational head in Zimbabwe on July 31 1981.
Gqabi was shot 19 times when three assassins
ambushed him as he reversed down the driveway
of his Harare home.

It seems almost fitting (though extremely scary) that the president has handpicked John Negroponte (of Honduran disapearances, killings and human rights violations fame - read Digby for full run down) to be the next US Ambassador to Iraq. Negroponte, Chalabi (the convicted bank robber) and their highly-paid mercs should feel right at home together.

Too bad we have be the ones to provide their paychecks.

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      ( 2:02 PM )
Against All Enemies

I have just begun reading Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies. (I am really irritated by the long title, and I'll mention why below) I'm only on the second chapter, but it's very good reading. He is a good writer (or he had a very good editor). Whether you agree with Dick Clarke or not, the first chapter of this book is incredible and worth reading. It is a minute-by-minute account of what went on in the Situation Room of the White House on September 11, 2001. It is both inspiring and frighting what our government can and can't do in the face of sudden attacks like that.

One thing I found stunning was that before the towers even fell, they had the airplane manifests and recognized names on them as Al Qaeda operatives! Stuff like this is what really shows what was wrong with our intelligence systems. The fact that information wasn't shared so that known terrorists weren't on FAA watch lists for boarding airplanes is unconscionable. I saw the PBS documentary about John O'Neill the other day and that just furthered my creeping suspicions that indeed, 9/11 could have been prevented.

I don't find the argument that "well, they would have found a way to attack us anyway" to be one that trumps the "we should have done more and thousands might not have died" argument. It was a top-down problem because the lower-level operators knew things that they told their bosses, but their bosses weren't sharing with other bosses, and it's only the bosses that ultimately make things happen and are responsible. That the beaurocracy and years of entrenched habits dating back to the old post WWII and cold war systems were still in operation in the last decade of the century shows that even when the underlings change and see the world with the rationality it takes to analyze and make decisions about current political situations, the system and its enabling bosses only hinder progress.

I have often uttered here that the point of government seems to be maintaining the status quo. Even if it's true (which it seems to be), that is no longer a viable option for this country. We must change or recede in our power, our status, our very viability as a democracy. We must push for institutional change througout our government, for people with vision to begin to have impact. And for those who would stymie us in a pattern of emperialism and greed-driven opportunism for those most advantaged in our society, they should be gotten rid of along with the old ways. We can't move forward in a way that will help the least of us, in a way that will avoid war instead of start it, in a way that will preserve our earth instead of destroy it, in a way that will encourage cooperation instead of halt it, unless we have top-down leadership that has the vision to do this very kind of shake up.

Whether that will ever happen, no matter what party is in power, is debatable.

point on the book title: One area where I feel Clarke's editors did err is the title of the book. The full title is "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror." It annoys the heck out of me when people say "war on terror." It's the English teacher in me or something, but come on, people! The president is the worst example of it. We're not fighting an emotion - that's like saying "The War on Rage" or "The War on Angst" or the "War on Exuberance." It's just bad use of the English language. So is it also wrong to say "War on Terrorism." You can't conduct a war on a method of behavior. Just like you can't really conduct a war on inantimate objects (like drugs). It's very violent language that our government likes to use to imply that it is striking out in offense against things that we can not control or hinder by acts of war at all. It's when we leave war behind us and pursue other options that things like the use of terrorism or the abuse of drugs can be inhibited or even stopped. The more people say "War on Terror" the more I want to start a War on Bad Language Usage. Okay, done with my elitist English language griping.

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      ( 1:29 PM )
Where's The Beef?

I realize that it is still eight months to go until the general election and 4 months until the Convention, but I feel like John Kerry really needs to pick up some steam. I know he needed to rest after the brutal primary season, and that he has to pace himself to get through this general election campaign, but come on! I don't mean to sound like sour grapes (okay, I totally feel like sour grapes about this), but the fact that we are now faced with the boring political wonk we all knew Kerry was and are complaining about his lack of inspiring attitude makes me want to gag on my "I told you so's" about Howard Dean. There were so many reasons why Howard Dean was a preferable candidate, not the least of which was how he not only inspired people but how he spoke out and got angry when things were wrong with the country. He offered real answers about healthcare and taxes, and he appealed to a gammut of people, including liberals AND conservatives. John Kerry may have to pace himself, but he better pick up his pace soon. His speeches are boring and uninspiring and he's offering no definition of himself that the attention-span-lacking media can glom onto.

I am in no way suggesting that I won't vote for Kerry, I am firmly in the ABB camp and feel that if Bush were re-elected, our country would face some major devastation -- I do feel that Kerry offers a good alternative because he will bring common sense back to our treatment of the environment, he will heal our relationships with our allies and other countries around the world, he will bring rational behavior back to our fiscal system and begin to lower our deficit again, and he will not rush to war EVER because he knows the horrors of war himself.

On the other hand, I'd like a little inspiration to go along with my vote. I'd like Kerry to speak up more, to be a true "opposition" candidate. For too long, Democrats have suffered candidates who don't stand out because they are cowed into thinking that a liberal option won't appeal to voters. It's just not true. Most voters want the things that liberal activism has achieved: fair pay for fair work, work place protections, the weekend, social security, medicare, etc. The reason why Clinton was so popular was not because he stood up for liberal views (he didn't, which is one reason I think he failed on many counts), it was because of his charisma. John Kerry needs a dose of charisma or at the very least, a running mate with a lot of it. He will make a great president and he will steer our country back onto the right track to achieve justice and prosperity, but if he could just do it with a good, from-the-belly "WaaHOOO!!" then I might go happily to the polls in November instead of hesitantly.

Either way though, I'll go. And you better too.

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      ( 1:01 PM )
News Alert

There is a new website up called "The Raw Story" -- Check it out. It is an up to the minute posting of news stories, but with a liberal perspective - or just stories on liberal issues that you might not see elsewhere (ie, the news on what is going on with Air America these days). I'm enjoying seeing such a variety of topics to read about and seeing what is going on in the world from another viewpoint than the corporate media.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2004
      ( 3:46 PM )
What They Don't Want You To See

The Seattle Times published the picture the Bush people were trying to keep away from your eyes. It is a military transport full up with coffins draped in the American flag.

For U.S. troops, April has been the worst month of
this war, with at least 94 service members killed
by hostile fire.

"So far this month, almost every night we send
them home," Silicio said. "... It's tough. Very tough."

The remains arrive at the Kuwait airport accompanied
by a soldier, sometimes a comrade from the same
unit. On one occasion, the comrade was also the
victim's father. Another time, the comrade was the wife.

But Bush doesn't want this nation's newspapers to traffic in truth. Nope, everything that smacks of truth seems also to smack of anti-war rhetoric, according to the administration. And the Seattle Times had to defend its publishing the photo.

"The administration cannot tell us what we can and
cannot publish," David Boardman, managing editor at
The Seattle Times, told E&P Monday afternoon. "The
photo may have been seen as an unnecessarily
provocative anti-war sentiment," Boardman said, but
he explained, "We weren't attempting to convey any
sort of political message." He added that so far, phone
calls and e-mails from readers have been
"overwhelmingly positive."

Uh oh. The natives are getting restless. And why not. Iraq Casualty Count can hardly keep track this month. It's only April 20, and so far there have been 103 US casualties. That doesn't even count the horrible injuries, even ones that could bring death later. And from all accounts, it's only going to get worse.

This isn't about ego and pride. This isn't about "staying a course" that is destructive to everyone involved. This is about doing the right thing. Bush has shown us he is incapable of doing the right thing. In fact, no one on his staff or his cabinet seem to be capable of it either (unless they do try but have to resign in frustration and write about it later). November seems too far off to get rid of these people if it means there will be 600 more American deaths and thousands more Iraqi deaths or more before then.

Update: Just saw that Voice of a Veteran had this pic days ago - courtesy of Veterans for Common Sense, who have some striking statistics on their page.

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Monday, April 19, 2004
      ( 11:23 AM )
Day Off

I turn the corner to the double digit age of 33 today. So I took the day off work and I'm planning on lounging around, reading Dr. Seus to a small person on my lap, and taking my kid to the carousel for as many rides on the horsies as he wants. Maybe I'll even get an ice cream cake out of it.

Lots to talk about, especially after that 60 Minutes last night. But I'm saving it for tomorrow. Have a great day and I'll catch you on Tuesday. Happy Birthday to me!

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Thursday, April 15, 2004
      ( 2:09 PM )
Following his black, black Heart

George W. Bush has reminded us over and over again that he doesn't make decisions based on polls. Instead, he seems to go with his own inner guidance system, one that appears, for all intents and purposes, to be badly in need of re-alignment. Saleton, over at Slate yesterday had a great article about this character trait of Bush - Bush's actions revolve around his belief that if he just keeps saying what he said before, that means he is a strong leader. Any hint of change or adjusting to changing facts on the ground means he was mistaken before, and he can never admit that.

To Bush, credibility means that you keep saying today
what you said yesterday, and that you do today what
you promised yesterday. "A free Iraq will confirm to a
watching world that America's word, once given, can
be relied upon," he argued Tuesday night. When the
situation is clear and requires pure courage, this
steadfastness is Bush's most useful trait. But when the
situation is unclear, Bush's notion of credibility turns out
to be dangerously unhinged.

Now, Saleton's article was in the context of Bush's press conference regarding Iraq. But it seems even more prescient with today's news about how Bush has decided to unilaterally deny Palestinians anything set out in the "Roadmap to Peace" and completely change the US's position on the conflict. Bush not only went along with Sharon's frightening plan to secure the existence of settlements on the West Bank, but he made it very clear that the US no longer can play any sort of "broker" role in this conflict. Oh, and he did more damage to our relations with all the other countries of the world - as if those relationships needed more hurt on them.

I can't wrap my brain around this one. At all. During the press conference, I thought Bush seemed slightly tippy, perhaps a bit unbalanced, shall we say even kooky. He didn't answer any of the questions put to him. It was as if he was a robot programmed with a certain number of key phrases and he just spit them out in random sequences as answers. But this thing with Israel completely baffles me. Bush doesn't seem to recognize reality at all. It's as if he lives in his own brain, a fluffy, non-threatening place, perhaps decorated in a calming baby blue, and he feels no need to emerge from that place to see if the ideas and decisions he generates there match up at all to the real world.

By supporting Ariel Sharon and his plan, Bush has defied international law and conventions, he has spit in the face of European allies and those countries closely involved in helping to negotiate a peaceful solution, he has affirmed to Arab countries that we have no plan whatsoever to recognize their valid arguments and positions or to work with them in any way (which really will help our position in Iraq), and he has, with the power of the US behind him, made it clear that he doesn't believe Palestinians deserve their country, the right to return to their lands, the right to be lifted out of refugee status, the right to govern themselves, or even the right to sit at the table.

It's not just me saying it.

Independent pollster John Zogby, who has surveyed
extensively in the Arab world, said: "This is pretty
much the final nail in the coffin of the peace process
as far as Arabs are concerned." He said his polling
indicates the Palestinian cause is among the top three
issues for 90 percent of Arabs in all Arab countries
he has surveyed. "It's not even a political issue, it's
a bloodstream issue," Zogby said.

Billmon puts the president's decision in perspective regarding the upcoming election:

How can something as trivial as the war against
Al Qaeda possibly compare to winning Florida's 27
electoral votes -- especially something as important
as the right of 100,000 or so Israelis to live the
Southern California lifestyle in the middle of a sea
of impoverished Palestinian is also at stake?

I don't necessarily agree that this is just for the Jewish vote though. I think it has to do with that ever-powerful fundamentalist Christian vote too. There are some inside and outside this administration that see Bush as the harkener of the apocolypse, and for Jesus to come again, certain things have to happen in the Middle East. This underlying dogma seems to thread through all of Bush's decisions about Israel and the Palestinians. Israel's dominance and power may be the motivating factor behind Bush's Likudnik advisors, but for Bush, I think in his brain, he thinks, "well, this is my pal, my buddy Ariel, and I know he's right, so there! He's right!" Billmon, in another post, says what we all know to now be true:

Unfortunately, no hope is what I think we can
realistically expect from the political process here in
America. Bush's statement marks the effective end
of any realistic chance that the United States will play
a constructive role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Washington truly is Likud-occupied territory
now, and resistance is almost certainly futile. For
all intents and purposes, the world's only
superpower has been bound and gagged.

How can one man be so wrong on EVERY SINGLE foreign policy decision EVER?!?!?

Bush seems vacuous and unable to bring himself to a place where he can see reality, assess it, and make determinations based on factors other than what he said before. His administration seems to be flinging itself at a brick wall --at several different brick walls, because none of the various parts of the administration seem to be on the same page about anything.

If we've learned one thing from the 9/11 Hearings in the last weeks, it's that the President is undeniably uncurious, disinterested and unable to establish the kind of leadership that makes his underlings actually produce results for the benefit of the citizens of this country. Even his closest advisors find it hard to recall whether they discussed matters of utmost importance with him. Is that because they didn't, or because they know they did, but the information just disappeared into that fluffy, blue space between his ears, never to be seen again, and they're trying to cover that up?

The one thing about vacuous people is that they can often turn out to be bullies. And that is what Bush is. He's the deadly combo of simpleton-bully. He insists his way or the highway and his way is based only on his rubrick of "well, this is what I said before and I'm sticken' to it." This is bad news for us. It's bad news for the Iraqis. It's bad news for Palestinians. It's basically a very bad thing for the entire world.

UPDATE: now,what makes me REALLY nervous is that Kerry agrees with Bush on this new, unprecedented policy (read further in the WaPo article). This is not a good sign.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2004
      ( 1:24 PM )
Watching the President

(our living room, after gazing at the television trying to comprehend ANYTHING that Bush is saying during the press conference:)

Me (to husband): What is he SAYING?!

Husband (to me): I can't tell - he could really be insane.

Me (to 2yr old): do YOU understand him?

2 yr old (translating tv): warkawakamoobielooba...cookie!

Me: Ah. Well, that makes sense then.

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      ( 1:20 PM )

Evidently, Rummy's been getting love letters.

(thanks to maru for the link).

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      ( 12:55 PM )
Cheney Clears Things Up

Voice of a Veteran was privy to a conversation with the vice president following the president's press conference last night. Read the whole thing, it's right on. Here's a taste:

Reporter: But Mr. Cheney, it was difficult to figure
out exactly what the President was saying in response
to our questions?

VP: Exactly. We have been practicing together for our
upcoming 9/11 Commission testimony, and last night
was really just a dry run.

Reporter: And what was the strategy he was using last
night -- and the strategy you both will use in front of the
9/11 Commission to answer their questions?

VP: Well it's clear that Iran & Syria, and possibly Botswana,
now make up the new axis of evil.

Reporter: You mean there is a new axis of evil?

VP: Right, and the FBI should have known about this
all along. They've been out of the loop.

Reporter: The FBI has been out of the loop??? I don't get
it. You are answering my questions with answers to
other questions.

VP: You are either with us or against us.

Reporter: What? I never said?Look, why won't the
President ever admit he makes a mistake? And doesn't
he realize that if he even gave a hint of an apology
about 9/11, his approval rating would probably shoot
up to 70% overnight? It would be seen as a sign of
strength, not weakness.

VP: It?s nobody's business who I go duck
hunting with!

Reporter: OK, let me get more specific
here -- last night the President was asked at least three
times, in different ways, whether he ever admits to doing
anything wrong.

VP: Yes, and if Americans will just be patient, we are close
to finding massive amounts of WMDs in Iraq.

Vet gets it right.

UPDATE: And for those who didn't catch the president in all his insane-ness last night, here is the busy person's guide to the press conference.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2004
      ( 3:53 PM )
War Profiteering

Dick Cheney is still being paid by Halliburton. Evidently, last year he received $178,437 in deferred pay from the company that got the exclusive no-bid contract on Iraq. What I don't get is this explanation:

Cheney's office said the income from Halliburton --
which was close to his salary as vice president
-- was in no way linked to the financial health of
the company. A Halliburton subsidiary is under
investigation for possibly overcharging the U.S
military for fuel supplies in Iraq.

How can any paycheck from a company not be linked to its financial health? That just doesn't make sense. What is clear is that any claims that Cheney has no interest in Halliburton anymore have obviously been proven completely false. (shocker: another lie). What is more clear is that the company profitting most from this complete and total screw up in Iraq is still paying the Vice President of the United States. As Kos says, the war has been good to Cheney.

As Maru might say: WTF??!!

Evidently, deferred payments from the private sector are commonplace in the corrupt landscape of Washington, DC as a convenient tax dodge. But in this case, even though these payments are "legit," it's a little more than just a coincidence in my view. This whole time the administration and conservative pundits have insisted that Cheney has no connection with Halliburton. Though it is true he'd probably get his millions despite how the company profitted, it figures that a tie like this isn't inconsequential.

It's just despicable the things these rotten crooks get away with. They are all bank robbers, thieves, pillagers and destructive freaks. How can the American populace stay so calm in the face of such rampant disregard for basic human integrity as has been shown by this administration the last 3 years? It enrages me that they get away with this stuff. It's really sad when you can't raise your kid to see the president as someone to be admired. We need to get that back. Now.

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      ( 12:48 PM )
The Hammer Gets Nailed

... by some Texas schoolteachers. This is one of the best blog posts I've ever read (thanks to Blah3 for the link). Check out what happened this week when Tom DeLay showed up to try and convince some teachers that they should give up their retirement pay. Juanita tells it all:

Tom DeLay's appearance at the Rosenberg Civic
Center last weekend to explain teacher retirement
was everything I could have wished for - Tom was
arrogant, rude, patronizing, and I have 400
witnesses to prove it. And then, as if determined
to make this the best day of my entire life, Tom
threatened to have people "removed" and would
not allow the news media into the room.

Thank you, Tom! I owe you a big one, Bub. For
years, everybody thought I was exaggerating
about your rotten attitude until you came to Rosenberg
and made me look like Miss Understatement
Festival Queen.

However, I did think that my fellow audience
members were a little rough on Tom with all their
booing and sardonic laughter. After all, Tom was
slumming by coming to Rosenberg. With
schoolteachers, for Socrates' sake! Schoolteachers
don't have any money and the Rosenberg Civic
Center is certainly a long slide down from the country
club or Haughty's Steak House. I think Tom was
expecting the Mother Teresa Award for Being a
Regular Guy because of this event. But instead,
he got booed. And, worse yet, laughed at. By
mostly women. Hundreds of them.

It restored my faith in sisterhood.

Tom was there to explain to Fort Bend teachers
why he won't let HR 594 come to the House floor
for a vote. Being as how Tom couldn't explain that
without using words to describe himself like mean,
condescending, hateful, and/or money grubbing
egg-sucking-dog elitist in a heap of donkey dump,
he took another route. Instead, he chose to
explain that gypping Texas schoolteachers out of
their full retirement is good for them and wonderful
for the Iraqi rebuilding effort.

It didn't go over well.

Up the teachers!! Read the whole thing. It will make your day.

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Monday, April 12, 2004
      ( 1:48 PM )
Dean Does it Again

My main man Howard Dean has done it again. He's said, publicly, what I want to hear our Dem leaders say...about Ralph Nader. The issue, as I mentioned last week, should be put to rest now. But Dean's editorial is worth noting because he says it with grace and not bitterness:

But I don't believe that the best way to do justice
to Ralph Nader's legacy is to vote for him for
president. Re-electing George Bush would undo
everything Ralph Nader has worked for through
his entire career and, in fact, could lead to the
dismantling of many of his accomplishments.

Voting for Ralph Nader, or for any third-party
candidate for president, means a vote for a
candidate who has no realistic shot of winning the
White House. To underscore the danger of voting
for any third-party candidate in elections this close,
a statistic from the 2000 campaign may prove
useful: a total of eight third-party candidates won
more votes than the difference between Al Gore
and George Bush nationwide.

I'm not usually a party-player and I did vote for Nader in 2000. But I agree with Dean this year that it really is a two choice option this year. But like I said before, I don't think Nader is going to be a real problem in 2004 anyway. If he doesn't drop out from all the pressure, he won't even make it onto enough ballots to really do any damage anyway.

But one thing that this editorial also reminded me of was why I got excited about the political process again. Because of Dean and his ability to articulate a true vision for the country:

Our group, Democracy for America, is committed to
exposing the ways in which the Bush administration's
policies are designed to prop up the privileged and
please right-wing ideologues. Our agenda is rooted in
hope and real American values — opportunity, integrity,
honesty. This is the way to defeat George Bush.

I hope that Kerry gets better at this - that he can muster some of the enthusiasm and spirit of vision that Dean had. So far he has seemed very lackluster and wonk-ish, just like the Washington insider that he has become. He isn't the most inspiring of leaders, but if he could liven up his campaign with even a little of the determination that launched Howard Dean onto the national stage, I think it would do him a lot of good.

(thanks to Digby for the link)

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      ( 1:25 PM )
The Other Front

Billmon reminds us, in an excellent post, that while we struggle to get information out of Iraq, we're not getting ANY news about Afghanistan beginning to unravel.

Even while Bush and his people are trying to defend the fact that they didn't do ONE THING to start trying to prevent attacks by Al Qaeda, and after he has made so many speeches claiming to have defeated Al Qaeda and sent it running, Al Quaeda is managing not only to reform in large numbers, but the Taliban itself is gaining more power again. Richard Clarke said it very clearly: the president's quest in Iraq has impeded our fight to prevent more terrorist attacks (though he said "the war on terrorism", a phrase I can't bring myself to use). And that's exactly what is happening now. With our resources about to be drained even more due to the popular uprising taking place in Iraq, Afghanistan is sure to fall into deeper trouble in the coming weeks and months.

So what now, Mr. President?

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      ( 9:28 AM )
Out of Hand

You may or may not know that we had another police killing here in Portland two weeks ago. I blogged about it when it happened. Once again, it was an unarmed black person who had been pulled over for a minor traffic violation. This time, the shooting happened in less than 30 seconds after the cops pulled the victim over. There will now be a public inquest into James Perez's death, which basically has no ultimate power to do anything, but after the last police shooting, less than a year ago, which investigation was shrouded in secrecy, there was little the authorities could do but sanction the public inquest.

It's an infuriating situation, but some groups and people are taking things into their own hands. I strongly disagree with the tactics being taken, especially by Rose City Copwatch. I understand that they are trying to take radical steps to provoke change in the system, but what they are doing is not going to accomplish that. Today as I walked to the bus, I passed at least 4 of their new posters, stapled to the lamp posts along my street. I don't necessarily disagree with what the posters, say, but the problem is that they are basically "Wanted" posters with the pictures of the white cops who did the two shootings. It's a terrible precedent. I don't like it for two main reasons:

1. While keeping the cops accountable is one thing, but putting their pictures on the posters is like advertising for retaliation. Vigilante justice doesn't solve anything. The main problem with Portland cops right now is that they aren't trained in anything except using their guns and tazers. They go through no conflict resolution training, they seem to have no training in de-escalation tactics for tense situations, and it appears that more often than not, they just pull their guns and start shooting. Add to this the fact that there aren't enough cops anyway and you get a very bad "us against them" mentality that is a recipe for nothing but bad. There is no excuse for the shooting of these unarmed people, there were many ways the situations could have been de-escalated, especially considering that what started the situations were minor traffic violations. But the fact that they occurred in my community, which is the poor, "diverse" part of town, the fact that blacks and latinos feel (justifiably so) targeted by cops, and the fact that indeed, crime really HAS gone up recently (as is usual in bad economies and when all the gang members put in jail ten years ago are all getting out on parole at the same time), all add together to make the whole thing a tinder box. Encouraging vigilante justice or even intimating that these cops are "fair game" does absolutely NOTHING to solve the problem and just creates more opportunity for crime, and ultimately, for death.

2. These posters are racist. Not because they have pictures of white cops. But because they are purposely put up in black neighborhoods. Assuming that the people of my community would respond to such things is on its face, racist. Trying to incite anger and even crime by targeting the very people who are already under suspicion by the establishment and feeling the weight of injustice and discrimination is despicable to me.

These posters do nothing but spiral down the situation. It gets harder and harder for people in the community who want to create an environment for change by both changing the system AND empowering the people who are victims of it to have any voice when the unthinking actions of people who put up posters like this are becoming so prominent.

There is no easy solution. Rose City Copwatch, you're not making it any better. Shame on you.

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Friday, April 09, 2004
      ( 2:36 PM )
Seeing the Gray

Just a final note here for the week. I have been looking around at the various commentary today. Many folks are starting to really question the Bush administration's motives and tactics in Iraq - even some conservatives and the mainstream media are starting to admit that this isn't all black and white anymore. In an article referenced by Josh Marshall, the WaPo even spends time in the midst of a critical article about Iraq mentioning that Bush has spent 40 percent of his administration on vacation.

In his regular column, Marshall also points out that the CPA over in Iraq is not at all subtle about the fact that it makes its decisions with Bush's political position in mind, not decisions based on what's best for Iraq. The Brits are pretty miffed about how far this has gone and are planning on bringing it up with Bush next week.

But even worse than all the pundits on TV and conservative talk radio trying to distract people with "Will John Kerry be served communion at Easter?" and "Look! There's no 'Silver Bullet!'" and not talking at all about what's really happening in Iraq, is the administration itself. Things have gone far beyond the "we're fighting against a small group of rebels" thing, and we all know it. Yet the Bush people, especially Rumsfeld, can't get anywhere close to letting it go and moving into reality. There are no gray areas for them, no sir. Steve Gilliard says it best:

The sad fact about Iraq is that no one gets the
scale of the tragedy. Not only are the theocrats
going to win, but the scale of killing is vast. Over
40 Americans and 300 Iraqis have been killed in

There is this arrogant idea that all the US has to
do is kill enough people and the resistance will
end. Dan Barlett, the White House spokesman
making the rounds of the morning shows, said
"we're fighting evil".

When I heard that, my mouth fell open. Hasn't
anyone in the White House noticed most Iraqis are
on the fence, and many more have decided to
oppose the occupation. They are not supporting
us. They are not taking our side, except when
we pay them. There isn't one pro-american group
native to Iraq. No one cares about Chalabi's henchmen.


What amazes me is that most Americans don't
understand a simple point: not since March 21, 2003
have Americans in Iraq not been under fire. There
has not been a single day where US troops have
not been shot at or attacked in some way in
some part of the country. While most Iraqis have
sat on the fence, there have always been enough
who so resented the occupation, they have sought
to kill Americans and those who collaborated
with them.

Steve's piece is very good, I urge you to read the whole thing. I just wanted to amplify a bit on the administration continuing to call those that have taken up arms against the occupying troops "evil doers." This whole "either you're with us or you're against us" thing has gone too far. Not every action is a terrorist action either. They've diluted the meaning of terrorism, and they've twisted what has become an armed uprising against occupation forces into a battle against "evil." I don't in any way want our troops harmed or hurt, but I didn't want them there in the first place.

What they are facing now is something that got out of control because the CPA isn't there to help Iraq transition into its own sovereign nation, it was planted there to transition Iraq into a staging ground for US presence in the middle east, greedy Bush-administration-tied corporations to make money, and for the oil. There were no plans made to actually assist this country go through what was always going to be a massive transition out of dictatorship. And the civilians in charge have never ONCE taken the advice of the career military leaders on the ground and in the Pentagon about how many troops we truly needed over there.

Neither our troops nor the Iraqis who are rising up are "evil." The situation was created by people who cared not for the lives of either of those groups, but rather for their own greed and tunnel-visioned view of the world. It can only escalate from here. Winning street battles and firefights are not "victories." We weren't supposed to be winning - or even fighting - gunfights a year after we went in (though many of us predicted we would be). The civilians who have been kidnapped and who most likely face terrible deaths, those others who are in danger over there now, and everyone else over there faces danger and death because of one thing: the manipulation of men in power who have no thought for anything but their own twisted goals. THEY are the ones who are evil, in my book.

The Iraqis will be further incensed the more that die (over 400 have been killed one WEEK), the puppet government that the US wanted to install is doomed already - this entire escapade is just FUBAR, excused this mama's language. The alternatives are getting fewer and fewer, and the only ones that may work (ie, sending in more troops) are either close to impossible, or simply disregarded by the men in power like Rumsfeld and Cheney.

The hubris of these men has killed hundreds of human beings for no reason. This is the same hubris that allows Bush to stay on vacation at his ranch while the soldiers he is supposedly Commander and Chief of die on his watch because of choices he made - choices which had nothing to do with anything other than that very same hubris. This is how I see it.

Whether justice will ever be served is something to discuss in the future. Perhaps it will begin in November. Meanwhile we must pray that somehow, some way, in some kind of quick fashion, the people caught up in this escalating chaos will find a way out. I have a feeling if they do, it won't be because of any help from the people who put them there in the first place.

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      ( 1:14 PM )

It's killing me. I can't stand it... I'm so excited about the concert we're going to tomorrow. I'm even more excited than when I snagged tickets for U2 (low, many years ago) or when I camped out at Abbey Road and witnessed the arrival of Paul McCartney (low, many years ago), I'm more excited than all the concerts I ever went to before combined ... in this week of terrible news and bad stuff everywhere, I have a glimmer of hope arriving tomorrow, and I'm more excited than I've been in ages. Who are we going to see? The Wiggles, of course! But Shhhhh... it's a suprise to the Kid... he has no idea he will be seeing his heroes live and dancing around and singing with thousands of other under-4-year olds tomorrow.

I guess one thing nice about being a Mama in the midst of terrible times is you have a constant reminder that there is hope for the future when you see your kid who has no worries at all except whether he'll be able to wear his purple socks every single day.

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      ( 9:53 AM )
Friday Poetry

For Dr. Seus lovers...it's a good one.

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Thursday, April 08, 2004
      ( 4:42 PM )
Falling Apart

The latest from Reuters is not reassuring:

U.S.-led troops fought fierce battles with Sunni and
Shi'ite rebels Thursday and a spate of kidnappings
snared foreigners as Iraq descended into bloody
chaos not seen since Saddam Hussein's fall a
year ago.

A previously unknown Iraqi group said it was
holding three Japanese hostages and threatened
to "burn them alive" unless Tokyo withdrew its
troops from Iraq within three days.

Rebels seized two Arabs with Israeli identity
cards, shown on a video tape aired by an Iranian
television station, and accused them of spying. A
Briton was missing after being kidnapped in the
southern town of Nassiriya.

Seven South Koreans, all evangelical church pastors,
were seized by armed men but later freed unharmed.
The Koreans told Reuters they had been kidnapped
on a road north of Baghdad.

The top U.S. general in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo
Sanchez, acknowledged the southern towns of
Najaf and Kut were in the hands of a militia loyal
to radical Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Not good news. I fear that this is only leading to worse news in days to come. I fear for everyone over there who is trying to do good, everyone who is just trying to follow orders and stay alive, and everyone who unknowingly gets in the way, especially the mamas and their children who get caught in the crossfire.

UPDATE: Australian news has more on the Japanese and Arab kidnap victims. Horrifyingly frightening.

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      ( 3:23 PM )
Whooop - there he is

So, evidently finding Bin Laden is not such a tough job after all:

Osama Bin Laden is attempting to enter the Arabic
Gulf state of Yemen by means of a sea vessel which
his team hope to board along the coast of Pakistan.
Al Jazeera were told by local villagers that two
attempts to board vessels have failed due to
increased security around the coastal region of

According to sources, Bin Laden who in March
entered into Pakistan escaped Pakistani and
American troops after his location was successfully
pin-pointed. Since then he has headed South and
now is attempting to leave the region entirely to
escape to the tribal region of Yemen.

This sort of puts to bed the rumors that he's sitting in Gitmo already waiting for the October surprise. But I think that even if we were able to pluck him out of the sea on his way to Yemen, I'm not sure how much of a victory that would be for Bush at this point. The Madrid bombings have proven that terror groups have spawned independent of Bin Laden's direct command, and at this point killing him or imprisoning him isn't going to calm things down. Also, the question remains as to whether we could have found him a year ago if we hadn't diverted all our resources into the quagmire that is Iraq.

It also makes me wonder if it is so easy for AlJazeera to get news from tribal people about where Bin Laden is, what are we doing fighting up in Waziristan right now...or is that done and we just didn't hear about it?

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      ( 1:16 PM )
Unity in Iraq!

Hesiod reports that the Sunnis and the Shiites have joined together to create a common Islamic bond of brotherhood in Iraq. How is this possible? Could George Bush be the secret genious he always claimed to be? Nope, not quite:

THOUSANDS of Sunni and Shiite Muslims forced their
way through US military checkpoints Thursday to ferry
food and medical supplies to the besieged Sunni
bastion of Fallujah where US marines are trying to
crush insurgents.

Troops in armoured vehicles tried to stop the convoy
of cars and pedestrians from reaching the town located
50 kilometers west of Baghdad.

But US forces were overwhelmed as residents of
villages west of the capital came to the convoy's
assistance, hurling insults and stones at the
beleaguered troops.


Two US Humvees tried to stop the marchers but
were forced to drive off as residents joined the
marchers, shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greater).


The cross-community demonstration of support for
Fallujah had been organized by Baghdad clerics both
Sunni and Shiite amid reports that the death toll in
the town had reached 105 since late Tuesday.

The rare display of unity came after Shiite radicals
launched an uprising in cities across central and
southern Iraq, shattering a year of relative tolerance
of the US-led occupation from the country's majority

Ignoring that the two rival factions that have hated each other for centuries now have a common enemy in our beleaguered troops stuck out there, this article obviously proves one thing: Bush is a uniter and not a divider!

UPDATE: This incident has me thinking of a chilly January morning in 1972 in Derry, Northern Ireland. Thousands of marchers came out to demonstrate for civil rights and an end to indiscriminate internment of Irish citizens by the British. They were peacefully marching along when the Brits up on the walls surrounding them opened fire. In the end, 13 people were killed and many others injured. It's known as Bloody Sunday. Before that day, the Brits were fighting "isolated gangs of rebels" (as Rumsfeld likes to characterize such groups of people who choose armed resistance against oppression and occupation), and after that day, the Provisional IRA saw more enlistment of volunteers than it ever had before, and much of the general population of Irish nationalists were behind them. There's a point that normal, everyday, "moderate" people will come to when they are being oppressed, that they finally decide there's nothing left to lose and they might as well fight their way back out. It seems like the Iraqis may have reached that point. I hope that US troops are not going to pay the price for actions of mercenaries that might have sparked this whole thing. On the other hand, it seems like a tinder box that would have eventually sparked anyway.

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      ( 11:01 AM )

I didn't get to see or hear all of Condi's testimony this morning, but from what I did see, it sounded like she'd done a LOT of prep. She knew what questions she was goign to have to wiggle around. I am still left wondering what did she tell the President? If she knew there were threats, and she said she and Tennet briefed the President on these threats, then Bush knew. As Atrios simply puts it:

For those who are a little fuzzy on their recent history, the timeline goes something like this:

August 6, 2001: Bush gets briefing titled "Bin
Laden Determined to Strike Inside US."

August 7, 2001: Bush begins month long vacation
in Crawford, TX.

Billmon discusses the memo further:

In any case, it does help explain the extremely careful
wording of Bush's most recent public statement regarding
what he was or was not told during that long, lazy
summer on the ranch down in Crawford:

"Had my administration had any information
that terrorists were going to attack New
York City on September the 11th, we would
have acted."

I'm waiting for excuse 2.0, which will probably be rolled
out after the 9/11 Commission report is released this
summer. I'm guessing it's going to sound something
like this:

"Had my administration had positive confirmation
that on the morning of September 11, nineteen
Al Qaeda operatives were going to hijack
American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines
Flight 175 from Boston's Logan Airport, and
American Airlines Flight 77 from Washington's
Reagan National Airport, and United Airlines
Flight 93 from Newark airport, and then fly them
into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
-- and either the White House or the U.S. Capitol
in the case of Flight 93 -- we would have acted."

So it's obvious that Bush not only knew there were threats and that they were increasing, but he chose to focus instead on cloning embryos and clearing brush from his non-working ranch. If the administration was so able to get systems in place AFTER 9/11 happened, why weren't they working on them before? It seems as though Rumsfeld's and Cheney's jones for Iraq and Bush and Rice's jones for Star Wars were major impediments to seeing the forest for the trees.


The unecessary battle rages on.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2004
      ( 4:19 PM )
Aw, Looky at the President's New Jacket!

One has to wonder if he likes this gig just for all different jackets he gets to wear. Here he is sporting his newest jacket for the start of the baseball season - and sources say that the stadium in St. Louis piped in cheering to cover the sound of boos from the audience - meanwhile, Sky TV reports that upwards of 130 soldiers could be dead or wounded from the mass uprising taking place right now in Iraq. Hopefully Sky is wrong -- looks like it may be a total body count, not just of coalition soldiers. Still, it's a horrible number for a 24 hour time period. Bush continues to reject a increase of troops on the ground - but sure, he'll extend the rotation times, because that will really make the troops more able to face this disaster.

One of the soldiers killed this weekend was from here, in Gresham, Oregon. And reports say that troops coming back on this most recent rotation are swearing that they will not go back, no matter what.

I guess Bush must be relieved he doesn't have to pick out a special jacket everytime more coffins come home - since he doesn't even bother to notice them.

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      ( 1:21 PM )
Sucks to be the Canary

In January 2001, Gary Hart and Warren Rudman reported to George W. Bush and his administration that terrorists were likely to attack soon, and that our country was not prepared. Their report even forecasted attacks using airplanes. Yet even though this report was issued 8 months prior to September 11, the 9/11 Commission has not asked Hart or Rudman or anyone else that was involved in the report to testify. Hart wonders why:

Why would a commission investigating the events leading
up to 9/11 not want to know what an earlier commission
learned about potential terrorist attacks and what
recommendations it gave to the new administration? This
would seem to any reasonable person to be of intense
interest to the press and the public the media serves.
Apparently not. Apparently the politics of whether National
Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice will testify under oath
and the drama of personal assaults on chief terrorism
advisor Richard Clarke exhaust media attention. It is
difficult to know, or to understand, why this is so.

Because the media is a bunch of lazy-asses who wouldn't know how to pursue a line of investigation if it hit them in the face. The 9/11 Commission, on the other hand, I would expect a little more from. Perhaps the fact that its executive Director was part of the Bush transition team on National Security matters is what could be keeping the Commission from hearing Hart's testimony about what the president DID know, and exactly WHEN he knew it?

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      ( 9:33 AM )
Open Letter to Democrat Voters

I think you can stopy worrying about Ralph Nader now. The only press he gets is when democrats whine about him and rant that he'll steal votes from Kerry. He won't steal votes - he will barely get any because he will hardly be on any ballots in November. If you need proof that Nader is not a threat this time around, look no further than here in Portland. "Little Beruit," the granola-crunching leftie commies of Portland couldn't even pull together 1,000 people last night to get Nader's name on the Oregon ballot. The only other option that Nader supporters have here in Oregon is getting 15, 000 signatures before primary - not gonna happen. So if he can't even get on the ballot in a state that massively went for him in 2000, where he filled an entire stadium when he came to speak, I don't think dems need to worry anymore.

Let's focus on more immediate issues that could derail the fair counting of ballots in November: the lack of paper trail on the computerized voting machines. Check out TrueMajority if you want to get involved in making sure our votes are fairly and truthfully counted, and that we can get a recount if we need one.

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Monday, April 05, 2004
      ( 3:30 PM )

One of the political buttons on my back pack that I carry to work every day says:

Think. It's patriotic.

Today in the elevator the woman in there with me saw my buttons and said to me, "what are we supposed to think about?"


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