Friday, April 23, 2004

The Teddy Bear Parable 

The idea was simple and well intentioned: Senior Airman Dennis Fry found that the military had unused military uniforms that no one knew what to do with. He had an idea: make them into tiny jackets, put them onto Teddy Bears, and send them to children in Iraqi Hospitals and in areas receiving charitable aid.

The problem, is that children in Iraq who are traumatized by the war associate American Troops with the trauma they've experienced. In short, giving Iraqi children a teddy bear wearing American Military Fatigues is a trigger for traumatic experiences with the occupation.

A therapist in the story is quoted as saying: "It's as if they live in a bubble and are quite separate from the consequences of their presence in Iraq. They may be well meaning but they don't seem to understand what the victims of a war zone require..."

So it goes, with Teddy Bears and Democracy: it's never as simple as your best intentions might be. One nation's gift is another nation's trauma, one nation's plaything is another nation's fear, and one nation's act of kindness comes only with another nation's blood. It might be soothing to think that this war was declared by an imbecile with a vendetta, but the odds are that it's something much more sinister: the war is the end result of a misguided idea of kindness, ignorance combined with the notion that we are a benevolent force in the world and that our deliberate intervention into another nation's suffering could only bring good. The best intentioned supporters of this war- the people caught in between Fox News and CNN- were the ones misguided into thinking that American Occupation was an act of American kindness. George Bush is dropping exploding hearts on people, and Americans are wondering why there's so much blood.

They may be well meaning, but they don't seem to understand what the victims of a war zone require.

Pat Tillman 

The story of Pat Tillman, the NFL star who was killed Thursday in Afghanistan, has two levels: the human side, which is a tragedy, as well as a social side: a guy who gives up a $3.6 Million life to die in Afghanistan is a more important story than any other individual soldier that has given up their life in Iraq or Afghanistan. How do we decide which stories matter, when we're looking at 700 dead? There are 700 Pat Tillmans in Iraq, and over 100 in Afghanistan. Countless more have been injured in ways that will radically change their lives.

Is the sacrifice of a millionaire somehow greater than the sacrifice of any other soldier, who leave, with their death, the same wake: family, girlfriends, boyfriends, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, children- dreams and ideas of all shades and stripes and levels of success and potential. They do not, however, leave behind $3.6 Million, and so, it seems, the media can give them a polite applause, shake their heads grimly and without analysis. When the poor are slaughtered, it is simply the status quo. When the rich get killed, it is page one. Pat Tillman gets media attention- which, I'll say with tremendous respect, he never seemed to want- and the deaths of the individual 700 soldiers in Iraq gets buried on the fifth pages of newspapers.

Pat Tillman could earn $3.6 Million a year to play football. As a soldier, he earned $18,000 a year to go through hell with a machine gun. Tell me again that America does not have fucked up priorities.

Age Discrimination? Very Compassionate

Under a new proposal, if you're collecting health insurance from your employer, they can change your coverage, or terminate it all together, as soon as you turn 65. The idea is that this will encourage corporations to give better health benefits for those under retirement age, but at the same time throws anyone relying on a part time retirement job to get extra benefits beyond medicare under a bus. You'd think medicare would cover hit-by-bus related injuries, but it might not:

Employer-sponsored health plans help retirees pay medical expenses not covered by Medicare. Those expenses could include co-payments and deductibles, the catastrophic costs of severe illness and the cost of preventive care and prescription drugs, beyond what Medicare might pay.

Oh and don't worry, even though it is a policy that discriminates by age, it's not technically age based discrimination:

The rule creates an explicit exemption to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. In practice, it allows employers to reduce health benefits for retirees when they become eligible for Medicare at the age of 65.

Who brought you this innovation? Those compassionate Republicans.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Red and Blue States of Mind 

The New York Times reports on MRI research into the brain patterns of Republicans and Democrats. While we all knew that Republicans get erections from watching 9/11 footage (just my personal theory), it does show some interesting things about how we process political information.

For one, Democrats "reacted to the Sept. 11 images with noticeably more activity in the amygdala than did the Republicans, said the lead researcher, Marco Iacoboni." I don't really understand Iacoboni's conclusion that the amygdala activity is linked to seeing it as a political ploy from George W Bush. I think they see 9/11 as an emotional event, linked to a fight or flight response which is directly linked to the amygdala. (The amygdala is our emotional control mechanism). The experiment is still under way, and they've found that Democrats react from the Amygdala when they see the "Daisy" ad from Johnson, which used footage of an A-bomb explosion. The final-esque conclusion seems to be simple: Democrats respond to violence with disgust.

They don't quite get into what happens to Republicans when they see violence, but I can tell you that the response of Republicans is almost always bordering on fetishism: When there is violence, they will pursue more violence and more control and more domination until the sky turns to hellfire or they get voted out of office. What part of the brain this is linked to, as far as I would predict, is also the Amygdala. So I don't know what the big deal is.

In the end, we can all be grateful for one thing: Science is paving the way for more manipulative campaign tactics and certainly less rational discourse from both sides of the fence. And here, you thought it couldn't get much worse...

Contractors Fired 

Tami Silicio took the photograph of Flag Draped Coffins being loaded into an airplane that you may have seen a while ago. Well, predictably, she was fired. Not so predictably, so was her husband.

Thanks to Dawn @ corrente for the heads up. You can also see the photo there, if you haven't.

Summer Job 

If anyone is looking for a summer job that will help flesh out a political resume, here is a website that is paying people to organize anti-Bush canvassing and fundraising at the local level. Worth checking out, I think. If anyone here signs up, let me know what it's like.

Good News For Terrorists 

Looks like Bush is getting ready to hand you another state:

"The Iranians need to feel the pressure from the world that any nuclear weapons program will be uniformly condemned -- it's essential that they hear that message," he said. "The development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable, and a program is intolerable. . . . Otherwise, they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations." -WaPo

Of course, when Bush says "starting with the United Nations", I have a funny feeling he means the inspection process that is already underway, which will be followed up by a mid-2006 unilateral invasion of Iran.

Homosexuals Not Legally Entitled To Medical Treatment 

Atrios also brings us this tidbit:

Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House. The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

It goes on:

Three other three bills that could affect LGBT health care were also passed by the House Wednesday which would exempt a health insurer or health facility from providing or covering a health care procedure that violated ethical, moral or religious principles reflected in their bylaws or mission statement.

The Artful Dodger 

Atrios points us to this article in Editor and Publisher Magazine that shows how Bush gets some questions in advance at press conferences (as well as seems to brag about dodging questions). The thing is, as Froomkin points out, the people at this conference weren't reporters, they were editors and publishers, and it was a speech, not a press conference. In this regard, the Spectacle in Chief was answering questions more or less as a gimmick than in an actual journalistic fashion. Imagine if he spoke at a school and asked for questions in advance, no one would panic then. Whenever Bush speaks to civilians who don't have journalistic responsibilities, it is more than fair (albeit unfortunate) to pick softballs.

Also, keep in mind that Bush hates the media, and if he can foster a conspiracy theory about getting questions in advance, or anything that undermines the authority of the media with the public- left or right- he will do it, and he will do it deliberately in the half-joke, half-serious way he has been doing it. "I wish you submitted that question in advance in writing so I could have a better answer for you, haha" is exactly how Bush would plant that seed. If the media is tough on Bush, you'll see Bush try as often as possible to circumvent it, which he also did by going exclusively to local news outlets recently. But personally, I think it is time to stop letting Bush get away with this shit:

Asked about an editorial in today's Washington Post noting that Sen. John Kerry now called for a stable Iraq but not necessarily a full democracy, Bush repeated his own view that democracy in that country "is necessary and it will change the world." He later added: "We're not gonna cut and run as long as I am in the Oval Office."

There is not a single major candidate running for office that is calling for the immediate and complete withdrawal from Iraq. Not even Ralph Nader is arguing that point, he's calling for a UN take over. So yes, he's dodging the question, but he's also fostering an image of John Kerry and Democrats in general that is downright incorrect. And our precious liberal media isn't asking him to explain himself.

Bloggin The Stans 

Redesign. Comments feature coming soon, feel free to post here to comment on what you see over there, of particular interest to me is this.

That Hearts and Minds Thing, Part Two 

Turns out that maybe the Boudreaux photo is a fake. I wonder, though, if the photo is a fake, why the military is still investigating the crime and refusing to call it a fraud when it's a major, first-class mediaplosion issue in the waiting. Also, the military already closed one investigation and is just re-opening it now to determine the photo's authenticity.

So, maybe it is a hoax, but maybe it isn't. I'll wait for the military investigation to tell me and yes, I assume they'll be honest about this one, for whatever reason. For the record, I don't think the guy actually killed the kids dad and knocked up his sister, I just think he saw two kids who couldn't read English and decided it would be funny to have them hold a sign up. I guess, you know, don't underestimate the fact that some guys are assholes, and joining the military doesn't change that. I'll let you know as soon as I see an answer from the military investigation into the picture.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

That "Hearts and Minds" Thing 

This photo was taken by Lance Cpl. Ted J. Boudreaux (pictured) in Iraq. The sign, if you can't read it, says, "Lcpl. Boudreaux killed my dad then he knocked up my sister!" It would seem that the children didn't understand the words on the sign. But it also seems like maybe neither did Ted J. Boudreaux.

...there has been an acute rise in "honor killings" and domestic violence, once suppressed during the past regime, since the U.S. occupied Iraq last April. A woman becomes the victim of an "honor killing" when her family feels she has damaged their reputation by having sex with a man, or even just by going out with him. This dishonor "entitles" a male member of her family to "justifiably" murder her. - Action LA

Virgin Mobile Commercial 

A woman asks a priest, "Father, can corporations go to heaven?"
The priest says, "If they have a conscious, if they have a soul, well, I don't see any reason why a corporation can't go to heaven."

Of course: Corporations have the same legal rights as people, why shouldn't they have the same spiritual life?

Some Irrelevant Eye Candy 

From the Emerging Democratic Majority Blog:

Here are other RV Kerry-Bush results for April:

Newsweek, April 8-9....................Kerry, 50-43
ARG, April 6-9.............................Kerry, 50-44
Gallup, April 5-8..........................Kerry, 48-45
Fox, April 6-7..............................Kerry, 44-43
CBS News, March 30-April 1.........Kerry, 48-43

Too early to matter, of course (with Kerry, poll numbers won't matter until a week before the election) but nice to see anyway.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Wilgoren Watch 

Since The Wilgoren Watch is out of commission, I'm taking it upon myself to take over the critique of this fine journalist.

What's In A Name? in which Ms. Wilgoren points out the various times that John Kerry has tripped on his tongue while making speeches. Haha, what a buffoon he is! I will be expecting a similar report on Bush's wacky slips soon from Ms Wilgoren, or the New York Times in general, in the rare event that Bush screws something up.

But guess what! John Kerry isn't the only Democrat who makes verbal slips of the tongue. So does Bob Kerrey, who, at the 9/11 commission interrogation of Condi Rice, where they were discussing Richard Clarke's book, he made the mistake of calling Rice by Clarke's name. And Wilgoren was on it, with a lead paragraph describing the wacky verbal gaffe. Haha, that guy doesn't even know who he is talking to! That's New York Times quality news, right, Jodi? That old-fogey, pretentious "issue journalism" tack is so 1976.

From Saudi Arabia, with Love 

A little more than a month ago, Dick Cheney, passionate populist, declared, "American voters are the ones charged with determining the outcome of this election, not unnamed foreign leaders." Well, that's out the window.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, promised President Bush the Saudis would cut oil prices before November to ensure that the U.S. economy is strong on Election Day, journalist Bob Woodward said yesterday. -All Over The News, Really

Today's Oil Price: $1.84. Woodward says: "They're high. And they could go down very quickly. That's the Saudi pledge. Certainly over the summer or as we get closer to the election they could increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly."

Let's watch and see how much money Mr. Bush is worth to the Oil Elites of Saudi Arabia. And, just for fun, let's go back to Dick Cheney for a minute, this time, as Kerry wouldn't say which foreign leaders he spoke to that wanted Bush out:

"Senator Kerry said that's none of your business. But it is our business when a candidate for president claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. At the very least, we have a right to know what he is saying to foreign leaders that makes them so supportive of his candidacy," the vice president said.

Well said, Mr. Cheney!

The Accidental Fascist 

I knew what Fascism was, did you?

"... a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

Is the Government Fascist? No. Is Bush a Fascist? Yes. Or, rather, Fascist-esque.

The Bush power grab, non-elected status, and the control over information exerted by Bush to garner "support" (or minimize opposition until moderates and hawks ruled the discourse) for the war, and in the time since, the cover up and tactics of defending power have been over the top for traditional modern politics. Couple that with the themes of Victimhood and Humiliation that came from 9/11, and Bush's exploitation of that, and you have all the bits and pieces that fit into a description of a "Fascist" government. If you go by my thinking- that this, in fact, is all coincidence- Bush didn't orchestrate the Florida election, Bush didn't allow or deliberately "let" 9/11 happen, he just bungled the ball. So while the themes are all moving towards Fascism, it lacks intent. What we have, then, is an accidental Fascist. Now, let's add one more piece of the puzzle, to Bush himself:

But one of his most important points is that fascism is less a plan for governing -- the Nazis and Italian Fascists were perfectly willing to eject parts of their stated programs if they interfered with forming fortuitous alliances with the rich and powerful -- than it is a strategy for seizing power. To do that you have to collect lots of enthusiastic followers. The first modern campaigners, fascists realized that for the less educated and attentive classes, politics was a matter of feeling not ideas. So, as Paxton writes, "Fascism was an affair of the gut more than the brain."

Patriot's Day 

"Mr. Powell's memoir also recalls an exchange in the early 1990's, in which Mr. Powell accused Mr. Cheney -- jokingly, he insisted -- of being surrounded by "right-wing nuts like you." In the last year, the Woodward book says, Mr. Powell referred privately to the civilian conservatives in the Pentagon loyal to Mr. Cheney as the Gestapo." - NYTimes

Interesting article on the fallout between Cheney and Colin Powell. Unfortunately for Mr. Powell, he's already disgraced himself and his credibility to the point where nothing can redeem him short of publically announcing his interest in Kerry's VP slot and calling Bush a Fascist.

Sister Blog 

Bloggin' the 'Stans is a new, god-awful looking sister blog to this one, covering the Central Asian countries ending with "Stan". Pakistan, Afghanistan, yeah, but can you name the rest of the band? I still can't, so who better to write a blog about the area? The idea is that I can educate myself and any readers interested by doing the research publicly. I don't know if it will last a long time, or if it will be over with as soon as I can name all of the Stans without looking. But either way, it should be educational. As I wrote over there, it's kind of a detective story: Here's a whole part of the world you never hear about and it's linked to oil, terrorism, sketchy American diplomacy, Heroin Crops, Nuclear Weapons distribution and the constant lingering threat of Nuclear War between Pakistan and India, not to mention religious fundamentalism, vast human rights abuses and Anti-American Hatred born out of desperation from the seething class of oil casulaties.

For the record, here's the Stans: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan- countries so obscure that Blogger's spell check feature doesn't even recognize them. What could be more fun than watching me figure out what the hell is going on over there? Because the mainstream Cool Media sure as hell isn't even trying.

The People Hate Our Governments For Loving Their Governments 

Remember the whole flap that came out when US Ambassador Joe Wilson came out to say that Saddam's people weren't seeking Yellowcake Uranium from Nigeria? Remember how that was a central selling point in the State of the Union Address that Bush gave to justify the war? Well guess who actually did make trips to Nigeria?

Our good buddy Pakistan! AQ Kahn, founder of the Pakistani bomb, sold Nuke secrets to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. When all this came out, the good Prez of Pakistan, Perez Musharraff, gave him a stern warning of his disappointment by pardoning him of all his crimes, and then feigning ignorance that he knew it ever even happened at all. I'm not calling for a war against Pakistan, but maybe a second look at "ally" status in the "war on terror" is due. I know, I know, we need to pretend they're our friends so we can have easy military access to both China and Afghanistan, but Jesus, we can't do any better than that?

Sunday, April 18, 2004

A Little Matter of The Constitution, Invisible Pipelines, and Our Good Friend, Oil 

On "60 Minutes" today, Bob Woodward talks about his book- a collection of interviews with the President and various high-ranking Vulcans who made the decision to go after Iraq.

The most telling bit was about the "blank check" that (ready?) Bush gave Rumsfeld to give to Gen. Tommy Franks to prepare for war in Iraq- secretly. It ended up siphoning 700 Million dollars from funds congress allocated to Afghanistan, without any congressional knowledge or approval. Which is against the increasingly flexible separation of powers as dictated by the Constitution.

"Rumsfeld and Franks work out a deal essentially where Franks can spend any money he needs. And so he starts building runways and pipelines and doing all the preparations in Kuwait, specifically to make war possible," says Woodward. [...] "...Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."

The interesting thing- a very, very interesting thing- is this news item in a "Popular Mechanics" Magazine a while back. It's a very small, paragraph long article with a satellite photo showing what appeared to be an oil pipeline through Kuwait to Iraq's border.

Civilian oil industry experts tell POPULAR MECHANICS that the location of the lights, which extend to the Iraqi border, does not correspond with known pipelines. A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which had a presence in the region from fall 2002 through (at the time of this writing) fall 2003, said it was unaware of any pipeline construction.

The question is, if there is a secret pipeline being used to funnel oil out of Iraq to pay for the war, then what, pray tell, is the $87 Billion dollars going to? This is veering into tin foil hat territory, I'll admit- wars, lies, secret oil pipeline projects- but I think it is a very fair and important question, meaning, of course, that no one is going to ask it.

[Here's another reference to the pipeline article.]

Frente Popular 

Spain has announced that it will withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible. It's sure to trigger a response that "The terrorists won", a catchphrase I assume'll be trotted out whenever "Operation: Enduring Hegemony" loses a foreign ally. Of course, when 72% of a nation's citizens don't want to be in a war to begin with, I would be tempted to call the ultimate withdrawal a victory for Democracy.

Maybe the hawks forgot there was a difference.


Buck Hill points me to this stunning piece of journalism in the Washington Post. I've read "bizarre" news articles before, but that was content, not context. This thing, in context- A "fashion story" about Janet Reno's Testimony for the 9/11 hearings- is downright surreal:

Her suit was the color of mud -- the sort of soft muck formed by rainwater and ashy city soil that has been leached of all its nutrients. It is a shade of non-black that on television and in photographs flatters no one except perhaps the rare green-eyed redhead with alabaster skin. Reno didn't choose navy or even taupe. Those colors might have suggested strength or tranquillity or some other mood that might be advantageous to project to her inquisitors. Reno chose mud.

Her jacket hung loosely and the skirt was long -- reaching to the mid-calf as always -- and without any fetching details. Her lapels were two uninterrupted plains, free of American flags or any other conspicuous announcements of patriotism. Notice the neckline of the jacket -- open, unadorned, practically crying out for a scarf, a strand of pearls, some tasteful Redbook kind of accessory. Albright would have tucked something in there, just to finish off the ensemble and give it a little polish. Not Reno. All of that nothingness speaks of refusal. She will not pretty things up with a few beads.

On her jacket, there were no seams to emphasize her waistline or bosom. There was nothing to remind the viewer that there was a body -- a person -- hidden underneath that gold-buttoned cloaking device. Instead, one focused only on Reno's face. Hers was like a disembodied head, its mouth answering questions, its eyes daring all comers to deliver their best shot.

Oh, Fashionistas, is nothing sacred no more?

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