Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Korean Missile Crisis

The missile-rattling by North Korea is getting surprisingly little play, all things considered. As a resident of a likely target area, I have to wonder if this has anything at all to do with Mr. Bush’s obvious disdain for us “Left Coasters.” It does almost seem like the North Koreans are being told to “bring it on,” with we on the Pacific coast being the most likely target(s).

It wouldn’t be the first time North Korea targeted Alaska, but with a presumed range of 9320 miles, why stop there? They can now pretty much target the entire United States, and given the cloddish bullying that we call American diplomacy these days, I can only keep my fingers crossed, and be grateful for each morning when I awaken still intact.

It is interesting, though, just how little attention is being paid to their mounting of a launch-ready missile.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bring them all home, now, please

Credits for original photographs:
AP; AP/Menchaca family via The Brownsville Herald

Monday, June 19, 2006

Picture this

Imagine for just one moment what it would be like to spend ten minutes in the box described below:

Now, consider these words from the Investigating Officer, an Army Brigadier General:

Geneva Conventions? We don’t need no stinkin’ Geneva Conventions!

[hat tip: Mark Kleiman at Reality-Based Community]

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Facta non verba

It seems the Bush Administration’s only (and utterly predictable) contribution to our Iraq war strategy is still to insist that “we” stay the course, in spite of the fact that dogged persistence using a losing strategy in the face of continual failure does not connote courage but only insanity. But it’s when he insists that “the sacrifice” is worth it that I cannot keep from gagging.

Perhaps if he was in any way one of the “sacrificers” instead of merely being the self-anointed “decider,” he’d have the right to say something about “our” sacrifice. But as it stands, his only “contribution” is to continue feeding our country’s youth (and some not so youthful) into the maw of this meat grinder. This is not sacrifice on his part; this is mere boy’s play, lining up the lead soldiers on the edge of the precipice and pushing them off the edge.

I might be a bit more forgiving if only there were some news of progress being made through the sacrifice of our troops, but it only, ever, gets worse. More troops die, so that they can be referred to by Bush’s Press Secretary as “a number,” while their lives and their potential contributions to society are lost, and the lives of their families are shattered forever. And for what?

Meanwhile, some in Congress have said for the record that they are OK with the provision of amnesty to Iraqis who have killed US troops, while our troops are still in country—WHAT??? Can there be a way to provide LESS support to our troops than to provide amnesty to those who kill them, what, so they can kill some more???

It is obvious that the lives of these young men and women mean absolutely nothing to those who are responsible for the danger that they face and their deaths and grave injuries. Our GOP-run Congress does not even care to provide sufficient funding for their care when they return home, battered and broken. But these stay-the-course fanatics are all front and center when it’s their own raises they’re voting on, and they’ll spout platitudes about sacrifice and courage until the cows come home, in spite of having no acquaintance with either.

Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from a report of life at the American Embassy in Baghdad......
An Arab newspaper editor told us he is preparing an extensive survey of ethnic cleansing, which he said is taking place in almost every Iraqi province, as political parties and their militias are seemingly engaged in tit-for-tat reprisals all over Iraq.

Personal safety depends on good relations with the ‘neighborhood’ governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. The central government, our staff says, is not relevant; even local mukhtars have been displaced or co-opted by militias. People no longer trust most neighbors.

Embassy employees are held in such low esteem their work must remain a secret and they live with constant fear that their cover will be blown. Of nine staffers, only four have told their families where they work. They all plan for their possible abductions.

Since April, the “demeanor” of guards in the Green Zone has changed, becoming more “militia-like,” and some are now “taunting” embassy personnel or holding up their credentials and saying loudly that they work in the embassy: “Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people.”

For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff members for translation at on-camera press events....We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their ‘cover.’

Another employee tell us that life outside the Green Zone has become ‘emotionally draining.’ He lives in a mostly Shiite area and claims to attend a funeral ‘every evening.’

Fuel lines have grown so long that one staffer spent 12 hours in line on his day off.

[Employees’] personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic channels, despite talk of reconciliation by officials.”
It seems appropriate to close with the following (inherited from my grandfather, who learned all about trench warfare in WWI France). It translates as “deeds not words,” and in the end, that’s all that matters.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Skewed values

One swear word (maximum fine): $325,000

One dead miner (maximum fine): $220,000

Bush and the Republicans, in a nutshell.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

“Asymmetrical warfare” or asymmetrical justice?

Maybe it’s just a measure of my own suicidal tendencies, but I suspect that if I’d been kept prisoner in the Guantánamo facility for years on end, with no end in sight, with no opportunity to challenge the evidence against me, and under the total control of my keepers, I would probably stop eating or try to hang myself or try to do myself in by whatever means came to hand. I doubt I’d be consciously engaging in “asymmetrical warfare,” but would only be availing myself of the last shred of my autonomy.

Of what value is life, under the circumstances of the prisoners of Guantánamo? They well understand that Bush’s “War on Terror” is a war without end, a war that can never end, and that they will be held for its duration—who among us would choose “life” under such conditions? What, exactly, do they have to live for?

I find it a stunning use of language when Admiral Harris says that he believes that “this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” All three of the men had been receiving force-feedings after having gone on hunger strikes, and had no hope of ever being released—would this not cause some degree of desperation in any of us so treated? Is not their incarceration a form of living death?

It seems to me that the suicides were the most rational act that those prisoners could perform, and that their reasons for acting were substantial, regardless of their guilt or innocence (itself apparently of no interest to their captors). Given the choice of a an endless living hell at the hands of others, or relief via death, I’m pretty sure I know what I would do.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Wage slaves, all...except for a few

Photo Credit: sideshowmom

It seems that it is with some amazement that people have been noted to take blocks of time off to [gasp!] go do things other than report to a job.

Companies too often believe that by hiring someone, they have assumed ownership of that person, and can dictate all their life conditions, such as by demanding more than 40 hours per week, abusive working conditions, relocations, attendance at company social events, control over the employee’s thoughts and opinions and speech, as well as when they can eat, sleep, or relieve themselves, let alone take a little time off.

I find it (perversely) amusing that the young French rose up in anger when their conditions of employment were changed to include the right of employers to fire them without cause during the first years of their employment, while in the U.S. such working conditions are nearly universal: a non-union employer can fire any employee at any time for any reason or for no reason at all, no matter the quality of their work or the duration of their tenure.

In the face of such a complete lack of job security, anyone who does show loyalty to their employer at any cost to themselves has only their foolish self to blame when it bites them in the ass. One-way “loyalty” is merely stupidity, and until employers see fit to show some loyalty of their own, they have no reason to expect it from their employees. Bravo to the ones who insist upon living their lives, on their own terms, and who understand that loyalty (or lack thereof) can only be a two-way street.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Renegade nation

It’s official: the Bush Administration, filled as it is with warmongers who’ve never been to war, now wants to renege on our promise to treat military prisoners with a bare modicum of decency.

Specifically, the Bush Administration wants to disavow our promise to adhere to Article 3(1)(c) of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the section prohibiting
“outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment”
because they find this limitation inconvenient to the sort of interrogations they want done.

But make no mistake: this is not merely an assault on the human rights of those we define as our enemies (without benefit of judicial evaluation). Oh, no, this is a direct assault on every individual volunteering to serve in our armed forces. The Bush Administration is not only declaring that we have the right to mistreat our prisoners, but that our own forces can be mistreated in the same manner if they are captured. That’s the beauty of reciprocity.

Again and again, Bush has shown that he is no ally of our troops. This latest foray into the abandonment of all principles of decent behavior is no different, and we will all pay for his official embracing of the evil that is torture, but our troops have the most to lose.

Cat in the dock

Photo Credit: kabir

In the case of Morgan Stanley v. Meow, Respondent Penelope Cat of Nash DCB, Ashbed Barn, Boraston Track, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, WR15 8LQ, Great Britain:

“Respondent maintains that it is a cat, that is, a well-known carnivorous quadruped which has long been domesticated. However, it is equally well-known that the common cat, whose scientific name is Felis domesticus, cannot speak or read or write. Thus, a common cat could not have submitted the Response (or even have registered the disputed domain name). Therefore, either Respondent is a different species of cat, such as the one that stars in the motion picture “Cat From Outer Space,” or Respondent’s assertion regarding its being a cat is incorrect.

“If Respondent is in fact a cat from outer space, then it should have so indicated in its reply, in order to avoid unnecessary perplexity by the Panel. Further, it should have explained why a cat from outer space would allow Mr. Woods to use the disputed domain name. In the absence of such an explanation, the Panel must conclude that, if Respondent is a cat from outer space, then it may have something to hide, and this is indicative of bad faith behavior.”

Hat tip: Opinio Juris

Sunday, June 04, 2006

What more do we need to know about it?

The model is more than a half-century old, and if anything, grossly understated the problem:

For decades, global warming has been an issue of contention, even as the data accumulated and more and more researchers formed an ever-larger majority who supported the model as more evidence came to light. Still today, though, there are people who disagree with their conclusions, but the validity of these naysayers’ arguments is looking more feeble by the day.

One of the strongest objections to global warming has been that the satellite data on the lower atmosphere did not agree with the model’s predictions, and that was one of the main issues that the White House’s Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) was tasked to resolve. Resolve it they did. In many places in their extensive report, pretty much the same statement is made:
“[There] is no longer sufficient evidence to conclude that there exists any notable discrepancy between our understanding of recent global average temperature changes and model simulations of these changes.”

Finally, as noted by Science, in an article titled “No Doubt About It, the World Is Warming,” a consensus has been reached for a study commissioned by the White House, done by a group of researchers that included some “researchers who for years had been battling in the literature.”

Unfortunately, Science also reports that:
“The additional support for global warming will not change White House policy, however. Michele St. Martin, spokesperson for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, says President George W. Bush believes that greenhouse gas emissions can be brought down through better use of energy while the understanding of climate science continues to improve.”

No “improvement” is needed. Here’s the latest addition to the voluminous evidence:

But clearly, no amount of evidence will ever be enough for the Bush White House. One wonders why he bothers to spend our money on studies whose results he intends to ignore. Delaying tactic? Oh.