Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Guantanamo, mon amour

Who else would describe Gitmo as a clean, safe, and humane facility, other than the poor military prosecutor who drew the short straw? Col. Morris Davis, who would also torture kittens if ordered by a superior, tries his hand at packaged vacation brochure writing in today's New York Times:
Today, most of the detainees are housed in new buildings modeled after civilian prisons in Indiana and Michigan. Detainees receive three culturally appropriate meals a day. Each has a copy of the Koran. Guards maintain respectful silence during Islam’s five daily prayer periods, and medical care is provided by the same practitioners who treat American service members. Detainees are offered at least two hours of outdoor recreation each day, double that allowed inmates, including convicted terrorists, at the “supermax” federal penitentiary in Florence, Colo.
Davis omits the fact that the majority of Gitmo prisoners, I mean, guests, have been held for years on little or no evidence. Or that the Bush Administration claimed that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to The War Against Terror®. Or that the CIA own's operatives have reported the same tales of abuse as the detainees themselves.

Davis tells us that Australian David Hicks told his sentencing judge that he had been treated humanely - more evidence of the benign nature of indefinite detention without charges at Club Dread. But Davis knows the US agreed to a shorter sentence (nine months) if Hicks agreed to lie about his treatment. The only reason Hicks even received a "trial" was because the Australian prime minister pressured Dick Cheney on the issue.

If we doubled Guantanamo, as Mitt Romney suggested, does that mean the US has to lie twice as much about what is happening there?

Glenn Greenwald has more.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Immigration is hard work

Expect to hear more about the 1965 Immigration Act in the weeks to come, as the right revs up to full indignation mode over the influx of non-white people crossing our borders. Lloyd Billingsley at the execrable Front Page is worried that brown people will demand to be treated fairly, and that just ain't right.

Why all the fuss? Here's a little background.

The Immigration Act of 1965 essentially repealed the immigration act of 1924. The '65 law had the support of Dems and Republicans.

The 1924 Immigration Act was a product of its time - namely, it was racist. It excluded certain ethnic groups, especially Chinese. America was all freaked out about communism in 1924, and KKK 2.0 had been recently rolled out as a user friendly Christian organization that attracted millions of white people. So naturally Congress gave America the immigration act it wanted.

But the issue today is illegal immigration. The 1965 act set quotas on legal immigration. But that's how the right argues. It conflates one thing with another. So Al Qaeda is the same as Shiites, and illegal border crossers are the same as foreigners with green cards.

As far as I can tell, critics of the 1965 act are upset because it lets in too many brown people. This is very upsetting to Republicans who think the US is meant to look like the cast of a Frank Capra movie. But the really cool part about America is that every nationality has contributed something to our culture. I challenge you to go one day without brushing against something that was brought to our shores by a non-white ethnic group. Jazz, margaritas, sushi, hummus, Pokemon, peanut butter, canoes, kung fu all vie for our time and dollars in the great American marketplace.

Immigrant fears and American xenophobia are nothing knew. Virtually every immigrant group suffered the wrath of ignoramuses at some point in the long American experience. Even the Swedes were abused at some point. How do you make fun of a Swede, for God sakes! "Hey Lars, we don't need your, uh, things that you do around here. Go back."

The Republican right talks a great game when it comes to staying the course in Iraq. The standard answer to every criticism of the war is "Don't be a quitter", and dissent is equated with treason. But the right's patriotic mettle turns to limp rigatoni when the issue is non-white people living here. Suddenly the knuckledragging wantwits who make up Bush's base turn white with fear, and dishonor 200 years of immigration history. "Oh no, immigration is hard work!"

We can't have that now, can we?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Goat fences make goat neighbors

Trent Lott (R-There's a Nigra on Ma Roof!), hasn't quite figured out the immigration question, but he has rolled out an important analogy: brown people are like goats.
"Now people are at least as smart as goats," Lott continued. "Maybe not as agile. Build a fence. We should have a virtual fence. Now one of the ways I keep those goats in the fence is I electrified them. Once they got popped a couple of times they quit trying to jump it.

"I'm not proposing an electrified goat fence," Lott added quickly, "I'm just trying, there's an analogy there."

Asked for clarification as to what exactly the analogy was, Lott spokesman Lee Youngblood said that the senator supported a variety of measures in the immigration bill, including unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, radar and more border patrol agents, as well as a fence to reduce the flow of illegal immigration.

"A fence in and of itself is not enough," said Youngblood. "You can have technology to support the fence and to supplement the fence."
Analogies sure are fun. I think I'll try one. OK, how about this: Trent Lott is to the US Senate, as a turd is to a swimming pool.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Museum of Bad Art

In troubled times such as these, when a corrupt President subverts the constitution while his cronies line up for more lucre, it is comforting to know we have place to turn. I'm talking about bad art.

Think Again
Acrylic on canvas by Unknown
Acquired by Scott Wilson from trash

This disturbing work "makes an offer you can't refuse". The chilling, matter-of-fact manner in which the subject presents the severed head to us is a poignant reminder of just how numb we have become. The understated violence implicit in the scene speaks volumes on our own desensitization, our society's reflexive use of force, and the artist's inability to deal with the hindquarters of the animal.

Alas, one day reason and honor will return to our nation's capital, and the need for bad art will slip away. But until then, enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Clinton's war on terror

The next time some right wing revisionist blames Clinton for Bush's War, tell him to STFU. A comment left at Carpetbagger Report tells us why:
CLINTON Developed the nation’s first anti-terrorism policy, and appointed first national coordinator of anti-terrorist efforts.

CLINTON Stopped cold the Al Qaeda millennium hijacking and bombing plots.

CLINTON Stopped cold the planned attack to kill the Pope

CLINTON Stopped cold the planned attack to blow up 12 U.S. jetliners simultaneously

CLINTON Stopped cold the planned attack to blow up UN Headquarters

CLINTON Stopped cold the planned attack to blow up FBI Headquarters

CLINTON Stopped cold the planned attack to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Washington

CLINTON Stopped cold the planned attack to blow up Boston airport

CLINTON Stopped cold the planned attack to blow up Lincoln and Holland Tunnels in NY

CLINTON Stopped cold the planned attack to blow up the George Washington Bridge

CLINTON Stopped cold the planned attack to blow up the US Embassy in Albania

– Tried to kill Osama bin Laden and disrupt Al Qaeda through preemptive strikes (efforts denounced by the G.O.P.).

– Brought perpetrators of first World Trade Center bombing and CIA killings to justice.

– Did not blame Bush I administration for first World Trade Center bombing even though it occurred 38 days after Bush left office. Instead, worked hard, even obsessively — and successfully — to stop future terrorist attacks.

–Named the Hart-Rudman commission to report on nature of terrorist threats and major steps to be taken to combat terrorism.

- Clinton sent legislation to Congress to TIGHTEN AIRPORT SECURITY. (Remember, this is before 9/11) The legislation was defeated by the Republicans because of opposition from the airlines.

- Clinton sent legislation to Congress to allow for BETTER TRACKING OF TERRORIST FUNDING. It was defeated by Republicans in the Senate because of opposition from banking interests.

- Clinton sent legislation to Congress to add tagents to explosives, to allow for BETTER TRACKING OF EXPLOSIVES USED BY TERRORISTS. It was defeated by the Republicans because of opposition from the NRA.

- Clinton increased the military budget by an average of 14 per cent, reversing the trend under Bush I.

- Clinton tripled the budget of the FBI for counterterrorism and doubled overall funding for counterterrorism

-Clinton detected and destroyed cells of Al Qaeda in over 20 countries

-Clinton created national stockpile of drugs and vaccines including 40 million doses of smallpox vaccine.

-Of Clinton’s efforts says Robert Oakley, Reagan Ambassador for Counterterrorism: “Overall, I give them very high marks” and “The only major criticism I have is the obsession with Osama”

-Paul Bremer, Bush’s appointed leader (Civilian Administrator) of Iraq disagreed slightly with Robert Oakley as he believed the Clinton Administration had “correctly focused on bin Laden.

-Barton Gellman in the Washington Post put it best, “By any measure available, Clinton left office having given greater priority to terrorism than any president before him” and was the “first administration to undertake a systematic anti-terrorist effort”

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Cartoon physics

The latest disrupted-in-the-nick-of-time terror attack, and the improbability of the mayhem that would allegedly ensue, reminds me of this news item from last summer:

WASHINGTON, July 7 (Reuters) - A plot to bomb New York's Holland Tunnel in an effort to flood the Wall Street financial district has been uncovered by the FBI, with a suspect arrested in Lebanon, New York's Daily News reported on Friday.

The newspaper, quoting unidentified counterterrorism sources, said the investigation involved what officials considered a "serious plot" to detonate enough explosives inside the landmark tunnel to destroy it and send devastating floodwaters through lower Manhattan.

The idea that puncturing an underwater tunnel would cause land the lies above sea level to flood is absurd, in the absence of a tremendous pressure that would force the water out of the tunnel and onto Manhattan.

Now comes word that an Islamist plot to blow up a jet fuel terminal at JFK airport would cause fuel lines buried underneath the Bronx to explode. A US Attorney who wants to keep her job says "“The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable, one of the most chilling plots imaginable.”

Yes. Right up there with covering yourself with vanishing cream so you can sneak past a mean guard dog in order to kidnap Tweety Bird. The Bush Administration, in yet another desperate attempt to scare the bejeeezus out of us, is still resorting to cartoon physics.

MSNBC quotes Richard Kuprewicz
, a pipeline expert and president of Accufacts Inc., an energy consulting firm that focuses on pipelines and tank farms, who said the force of the explosion would depend on the amount of fuel under pressure, but it would not travel up and down the line.

“That doesn’t mean wackos out there can’t do damage and cause a fire, but those explosions and fires are going to be fairly restricted,” he said.

Friday, June 01, 2007

What a torturing nation loses

From a Spanish journalist, Gomez Carillo on the front lines with French troops in 1915:
One morning a Bavarian soldier who had come out of his hole in search of some beetroot left in a field by labourers, mistook his path and wandered into the enemy's lines. The troopers caught him by the feet and brought him into the dugout of the captain of the company, who asked him:

"What are you doing here?"

"I was looking for something to eat," said the German.

"It isn't the dinner hour."

"I know, but we have had nothing for two days."

The captain ordered a sumptuous meal for him: meat, eggs, sardines, cheese, coffee, cognac, and even a penny cigar. When the feast was finished, the captain cried:

"And now be off, we have had enough of you."

"Oh! " said the poor fellow, thinking of the abundant menu of the French trenches, "I consider myself your prisoner."

"No, no, we can't be bothered with one single Boche. Be off. Later on, if we catch you with all your companions, we will keep you. We have enough provisions here for a regiment. Good-bye!"

At nightfall twenty soldiers to whom the honest Bavarian had described his adventure, came over and gave themselves up in the trench of the sardines and cheese. As a recompense they were given a splendid dish of fried potatoes. "Fried potatoes," said Ch—, "are our favourite dish, and the cook is esteemed or detested according as he prepares them well or ill. When we see him coming along there from the south with his saucepans, the first thing we ask is whether he has brought us our favourite dish. The worst of it is that generally he won't take the trouble to cook them to a turn, and so when they get here they are uneatable. Only yesterday we held a court-martial on the cook of our trench, and we condemned him to be degraded for not doing potatoes properly. If they are not good to-day we will condemn him to death."