December 10, 2007 archive

The uninvited and unwanted guest

We’ve all dealt with them before.  

It could be an old friend who you still have fond memories of but has really changed and let you down over time – yet you just don’t have the heart to break things off or say “enough”.  It could be an acquaintance or even a family member who you just have to deal with from time to time and you figure that if you make the best of it, it won’t be all that bad and eventually it will all be over.  It could be someone who isn’t a bad person who has just let you down over time but you still have a soft spot for.  Or, it could be someone who tags along with a friend and you’re now stuck with them.

Four at Four

Afternoon news and open thread.

  1. Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauri of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were in Oslo today to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are excerpts from Gore’s Nobel Lecture.

    Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken – if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose…

    We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency – a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst – though not all – of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.

    However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler’s threat: “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.” …

    Now comes the threat of climate crisis – a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion? …

    The world needs an alliance – especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where Earth is in the balance… But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China…

    Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.

  2. The Telegraph reports the US refuses to set Bali target for emissions. “The United States warned it was unwilling to accept numeric targets in the plan which will be at the centre of debate among negotiators attempting to hammer out a final document by Friday. Harlan Watson, the United States’s chief negotiator, said the US was in Bali to work in a ‘constructive manner’ to get a roadmap for negotiations to be completed by 2009… Dr Watson also said the figures, which were derived from… IPCC most recent assessment report this year, are surrounded by ‘many uncertainties’… Mr Watson also told a press conference in Bali he does not think the EU target of limiting global warming to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels was a ‘helpful’starting point.”

  3. In an interview with the AP, John Kerry indicated the US Senate wouldn’t ratify climate deal without developing countries. “If China and other emerging economies don’t contribute to reining in greenhouse gases, ‘it would be very difficult’ to get a new global climate deal through the U.S. Senate, even under a Democratic president, Sen. John Kerry said Monday. ‘At some point in time, they will have to take on those reductions, for several reasons, most importantly the developed countries are not going to be able to do this on their own,’ Kerry said… Kerry noted that one reason Kyoto found no support in the late 1990s in the Senate, which must ratify such international accords, was that it didn’t demand emissions cuts by developing nations.”

  4. The AP reports Huckabee Pardons Under Scrutiny. “As governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee had a hand in twice as many pardons and commutations as his three predecessors combined. The case he’s asked about most concerns the parole of a castrated rapist who later killed a woman… The [other] acts of clemency benefited the stepson of a staff member, murderers who worked at the governor’s mansion, a rock star and inmates who received good words from their pastors.”

GITMO: Where Are You?

GITMO: where are you?

You are not in Cuba. You are not in the U.S.

You are not in the law.

You are nothing but the law. Not the law as vehicle of justice, but law as the articulation of brute power.

People turn away from GITMO because it reveals the violence that ultimately grants the law its authority, its power.

The Ballad Of Abu Zubaydah

(cross-posted from kos at buhdy’s request; thanks for all the recs, dd people!)

We know that one of the two destroyed CIA interrogation tapes documented the torture of Abu Zubaydah.

We know that Zubaydah was no “high-value” Al Qaeda operative, but an “insane, certifiable” gofer. We know that when this truth was conveyed to George II, his response was to personally press the CIA to pursue further “information extraction.” We know that Zubaydah provided no actionable intelligence, but that his desperate attempts to placate his torturers may have resulted in US-directed “dark side” operations that killed innocent people. And we know that George II, aware of all this, has nonetheless persisted in attributing an increasingly important role to Zubaydah as both Al Qaeda fiend, and key to “cracking” the 9/11 plot.

We can assume, then, that the tape documenting Zubaydah’s interrogation was destroyed not only because of the monstrous nature of the torture techniques inflicted upon him. It likewise represented a dangerous lever, one that could have toppled the tower of lies that BushCo has erected upon the tormented mind and tortured body of Abu Zubaydah.

It could have exposed the truth. That what has been done to this man may be the filthiest, most outrageous act committed by an administration that has redefined, in our name, filth and outrage.    

USAToday on the Destroyed Tapes

I’ll start by saying I find USAToday an example of everything bad and wrong about today’s print media.  Well maybe not everything, WaPo is worse because they’re also dishonest.  But USAToday is deliberately designed (and has been since it’s inception) to be the McEyewitness News of Newspapers, a pile of print for you to step in on the way out of your room at the Marriott in the morning.  Reading it takes no longer than a cup of coffee and a danish.

But lots of people do because it’s free and a step up from a local ‘shopper’ newsprint magazine, so I occasionally check their opinion section to get the pulse of what’s supposed to be mainstream.

Today one of their opinions was No torture, no need to destroy videotapes.  Whoever wrote this has no doubt that the tapes would make us look bad-

Had the tapes ever gotten out, they might have made the Abu Ghraib prison photos look tame. Imagine the propaganda value Osama bin Laden could reap from video of Arabs struggling in pain as Americans subjected them to waterboarding or other torture. The fact that the prisoner might have been a murderous thug would be lost in the revulsion and condemnation of the United States for barbarism.

Then again the prisoner might not have been a murderous thug, just a low level wacko, but I digress.

Like all things USAToday it’s a very quick read and I encourage you to do so.  The author mostly gets it right.  “The original sin was the torture itself, not the tapes or their destruction.  Spy agencies don’t get to write their own laws.”

What I think the author misses though is how much seeing these tapes would inflame not only Arabs, but Americans.

Who among us, a society that buys its meat shrink wrapped in plastic at best, in microwavable breaded nuggets more often, really wants to see sausage made?

I’ll tell you who.  The 30%.  Dogfighting, executions, we’re Romans and we deserve the best circuses to display the power and wealth of our empire!

It puts me in mind of later empires too, where dictators and their sycophants giggle and eat popcorn while flickering images of state traitors dance at the end of piano wire nooses like obscene puppets.

Do you suppose W watched these tapes?  How many times?  Special bonus question- how many times for Saddam’s execution?

George “the Torturer” Bush

Ok, so the CIA destroyed tapes documenting the “interrogation” of Abu Zubaydah. A tacit admission of torture. I urge you all to click the link and read and rec blueness’s diary. It cites,  among many other sources, Ron Suskind’s 2006 book, The One Percent Doctrine in which the case of Zubaydah is laid out extensively. blueness uses this quote:

“I said he was important,” Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. “You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” “No sir, Mr. President,” Tenet replied. Bush “was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,” Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, “Do some of these harsh ‘methods really work?”

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(blueness’s diary has scrolled off, btw…but please still recommend it)

Victory in Iraq? Who’s kidding whom?

Finally, some good news from Iraq.

“We are winning,” declared former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee…Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee said the U.S. “must prevail” in the war, and added, “… I believe that we are.”

…Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani … said that the goal in Iraq should be a “victory for America.”

The phrase was striking because Bush himself, who often touted the U.S. strategy for victory, recently dropped the word “victory” from his lexicon as part of an administration effort to avoid appearing to overstate progress.

Excuse me, but I think this is where I came in.  

Mission accomplished? Victory?  Hardly.

Who’s kidding whom?

At best, we have a temporary respite from escalating numbers of deaths and attacks in Iraq since the so-called surge began.  

On Sunday, 23 civilian deaths were reported.  On Saturday, 26.  On Friday, 32.  The worst day last week was Wednesday, with 45 killed. The weekly total:  202.  Those are conservative numbers from a reliable source.

Thirty-seven US service members died in Iraq last month, the lowest monthly total since March 2006.

Lest anyone confuse those numbers with “victory,” consider this sobering assessment:

BAGHDAD — The U.S. troop buildup in Iraq was meant to freeze the country’s civil war so political leaders could rebuild their fractured nation. Ten months later, the country’s bloodshed has dropped, but the military strategy has failed to reverse Iraq’s disintegration into areas dominated by militias, tribes and parties, with a weak central government struggling to assert its influence.

In the south, Shiite Muslim militias are at war over the lucrative oil resources in the Basra region. To the west, in Anbar province, Sunni Arab tribes that once fought U.S. forces now help police the streets and control the highways to Jordan and Syria. In the north, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens are locked in a battle for the regions around Kirkuk and Mosul. In Baghdad, blast walls partition neighborhoods policed by Sunni paramilitary groups and Shiite militias.

“Iraq is moving in the direction of a failed state, a highly decentralized situation — totally unplanned, of course — with competing centers of power run by warlords and militias,” said Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group. “The central government has no political control whatsoever beyond Baghdad, maybe not even beyond the Green Zone.”

The key word in the first paragraph of that story is “failed.”

And that’s the situation with US troop levels at their peak.  A relative handful — 5,000 of the 162,000 US forces — are on their way home this month.

By next summer, 25,000 more are to come home under the plan put forward by Gen. David Patraeus.  That would merely bring troop levels back to where they were before the surge — and Patraeus has kept open the option of changing his mind, depending upon the security situation in Iraq.  

At the absolute best, that leaves 130,000 US troops in Iraq next July.

Victory?  Hardly.

There are plenty of words to describe the situation in Iraq, but victory is not one of them.  

We’ve got to keep the pressure on, or we’ll be hearing Hillary & Co. talking about “victory” in their next debate.

A real victory would consist of ending the war and bringing our troops home.  That is not even up for discussion by the Republican candidates, except Ron Paul, and gets very little traction with the leading Demomcrats, either.

It’s time to turn up the heat. Iraq Moratorium #4 on December 21 is a good place to start, but don’t stop there.  We’ve got to not only turn up the heat, but keep it on.  

Or we should consider the solution proposed by Sen. George Aiken, a Vermont Republican, during the Vietnam war:  Just declare victory and being the troops home.

That’s the kind of victory we could all get behind.    

Pony Party: Worst Meals Ever!

Cross-posted from Top Comments at GOS

I was having a tough time finding a topic for my Top Comments diary (on the GOS, as linked above). My Eureka! moment was when I looked through the Spam folder in my email account, just for laughs. “Spam,” I thought, “what a truly horrid food substance.” And then I had it! I should write about all the bad food I’ve eaten in my 30-something years on the planet.

Having been born in the 70s, I’ve had my fair share of food with low nutritional value. The 70s and 80s seemed to be the era of junk food, and my family was far from immune. I’m not sure if it was a matter of convenience or whether it was because junk food was cheaper. Both are reasonable possibilities: my mom was the parent who worked AND did everything around the house (until we kids were old enough for household chores) and our family didn’t have a lot of money.  

Pony Party, NFL Round-up

Docudharma Times Monday Dec.10

This is an Open Thread: Please join us.

Headline For Monday December 10: Hoyer Is Proof of Earmarks’ Endurance: Republicans sing new tune on Iraq for Spanish station : U.S. Is No Haven, Canadian Judge Finds: Mortar shells hit Iraq prison, killing 7: Iraq calmer, but more divided: PM: Quick conclusion needed on Kosovo: CIA photos ‘show UK Guantanamo detainee was tortured’: Merkel’s comment on Zimbabwe fascist: official: Archbishop discards dog collar ‘until tyrant goes’: New York Philharmonic to play in N.Korea: paper: US balks at Bali carbon targets


Hoyer Is Proof of Earmarks’ Endurance

Md. Democrat’s Campaign Donors Among Grantees

By Mary Beth Sheridan

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, December 10, 2007; Page A01

Even as House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer has joined in steps to clean up pork-barrel spending, the Maryland congressman has tucked $96 million worth of pet projects into next year’s federal budget, including $450,000 for a campaign donor’s foundation.

Hoyer (D) is one of the top 10 earmarkers in the House for 2008, based on budget requests in bills so far, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, an independent watchdog group.

Earmarks are spending items inserted into bills to benefit designated companies or projects, often in the sponsoring lawmaker’s district. They make up a small percentage of the federal budget.

Republicans sing new tune on Iraq for Spanish station

The GOP hopefuls speak out for the ‘surge’ and minimize illegal immigration concerns at the Univision debate.

By Peter Wallsten, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 10, 2007

CORAL GABLES, FLA. — Citing a recent decline in violence in Iraq, top Republican presidential candidates on Sunday offered gushing assessments of the U.S. war effort there — an unusual moment in a GOP primary campaign that for months usually has stepped gingerly around the Bush administration’s unpopular policies in that country.

The candidates’ comments, coming in a debate on the Spanish-language television network Univision, went further than even the White House and top military leaders have gone as they have watched civilian and military deaths ebb since President Bush launched a controversial U.S. troop “surge” strategy.

Mormons: A Family Story

My father’s family are Mormons.  In the mid-eighteen hundreds they gave everything they owned to the church that Joseph Smith founded.  My paternal ancestors came from Sweden and England and most pulled handcarts from Independence, Missouri to the Great Salt Lake.  The church couldn’t afford oxen and wagons for everyone so this is what they pulled.

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Over trails like this.

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The Day After Tomorrow Week 14

Cross posted at Wild, Wild Left my little blog, and My Left Wing.

Part One Here

Part Two Here

Its been a while, I know.  Things have changed a lot for us.

The weather broke, finally, spring is in the air.  Its funny, the plants don’t seem to care or notice how much has changed. We hold on, hoping my husband will come back from that store 11 weeks ago.  It’s less than a mile away. I haven’t given up on him, and hope he was conscripted by the right side. Jake’s fever broke when I boiled some willow bark for him.  Thank God for my library and having all those “nature” and “medicinal plant” books I bought years ago. One woman’s husband just made it here today, after being gone even longer. He claims that both sides are just kind of giving up, letting people go, more worried about survival now. I can only hope, wait, pray in the way I do.

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