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Monday, May 24, 2004

Pitiful

I definitely agree with Jesse over at Pandagon -this is the dumbest article ever to appear at NRO, which is saying quite a lot.

Shorter version? Bush is a jock, and Kerry isn't; therefore, Bush is more fit to be preznit.

The sad excuse for an article cites Bush's "14.5 percent body fat" and "45 beat per minute resting pulse rate".

Don't quote me, but I have it on absolute, iron-clad authority that these numbers - and others - are cooked.

And let's not forget - Kerry proved his physical fitness where it counted...in Vietnam.

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Just a few bad apples

Former Soldier Claims He Was Beaten During Training Exercise In Cuba
In an exclusive interview with LEX 18's Leigh Searcy, a central Kentucky soldier says he was told to pose as the enemy for a training exercise at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in January 2003 - and it nearly cost him his life.

(snip)

In January 2003, Baker was a member of the 438th Military Police company in Operation Enduring Freedom at Guantanamo Bay, where he says he was "given a direct order by an officer in the U.S. Army" to play the role of a detainee for a training exercise.

(snip)

Baker claims that he was ordered to put on one of the orange jumpsuits worn by the detainees. "At first I was reluctant, but he said 'you'll be fine...put this on.' And I did," said Baker.

Baker says what took place next happened at the hands of four U.S. soldiers - soldiers he believes didn't know he was one of them - has changed his life forever.

"They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down," said Baker. "Then he - the same individual - reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn't breath. When I couldn't breath, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was 'red.'"

But, Baker says, the beating didn't stop. "That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me," he said. "Somehow I got enough air, I muttered out, 'I'm a U.S. soldier, I'm a U.S. soldier.'"

Baker says it wasn't until one of the soldiers noticed what Baker was wearing did the exercise stop. "He saw that I had BDU's and boots on."

Nearly 15 months after that day, and countless medical treatments at Walter Reed Hospital, Baker is now medically retired from the military, but still suffers.

"I sustained an injury to my brain a traumatic brain injury which has caused me to have a seizure disorder I deal with daily," said Baker.

Baker's traumatic brain injury is outlined in a military document in his possession, which says the injury "was due to soldier playing role as a detainee who was uncooperative."

In light of recent revelations of prisoner abuse in Iraq, Baker felt the need to come forward with his story.

"I feel like I've been betrayed by my own troops because I would never have done to any detainee what had been transpired in my life what happened to me," said Baker. "I don't want this to happen to anyone else, what I'm living with daily."

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Dubya to speak from U.S. Army War College

...and I refuse to listen unless someone from the U.S. Army War College reads the report to him, including the part that reads -
"[The] global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly . . . its parameters should be readjusted," Record writes. Currently, he adds, the anti-terrorism campaign "is strategically unfocused, promises more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security."

The report, by visiting professor Jeffrey Record, who is on the faculty of the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., warns that as a result of those mistakes, the Army is "near the breaking point." It recommends, among other things, scaling back the scope of the "global war on terrorism" and instead focusing on the narrower threat posed by the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Please feel free to augment the report with pictures, as the preznit is not known for his long attention span.

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Sunday, May 23, 2004

Rumsfeld bans camera phones

Predictable.
MOBILE phones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported today.

Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the US Defence Department believes that some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.

"Digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones with cameras have been prohibited in military compounds in Iraq," it said, adding that a "total ban throughout the US military" is in the works.

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Thinking about applying for that high-paid trucker job in Iraq?

Think again.

Trucks made to drive without cargo in dangerous areas of Iraq -
Empty flatbed trucks crisscrossed Iraq more than 100 times as their drivers and the soldiers who guarded them dodged bullets, bricks and homemade bombs.

Twelve current and former truckers who regularly made the 300-mile re-supply run from Camp Cedar in southern Iraq to Camp Anaconda near Baghdad told Knight Ridder that they risked their lives driving empty trucks while their employer, a subsidiary of Halliburton Inc., billed the government for hauling what they derisively called "sailboat fuel."

(snip)

Shane "Nitro" Ratliff of Ruby, S.C., who quit working for KBR in February, recalled a harrowing trip in December.

As he was hauling an empty truck to Baghdad International Airport, Iraqis threw spikes under his tires and a brick, a cement-like clot of sand and gasoline through his windshield, scattering shards of glass all over him and into his eyes.

"We didn't have no weapons; I had two rocks and a can of ravioli to fight with," Ratliff said.

Ratliff caught up with his fleeing convoy in his damaged truck and made it to the airport safely. He figured he'd pick up a load there, but he was told to return with another empty trailer.
Point One - Two civilian truck drivers have been killed.

Point Two - Fuel prices are sky high, and taxpayers are footing the bill.

Point Three - The soldiers who guard these empty convoys just might be more useful elsewhere.

Point Four - This is a perfect example of why privatizing a war is a crappy idea.


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Stupidity, hubris, or fear?

From the Hindustan Times -
The political split in the US over outsourcing notwithstanding, till very recently the fund-raising and vote-seeking campaign for the Republican Party was done partly out of India. And this was handled by two call centres located in our own friendly neighbourhood in Noida and Gurgaon.

(snip)

According to the deal details, at any point in time, 75 agents worked on a $9.25 per hour per person billing rate, and contacted at least 20,000 voters through an automatic dialer.
Like cockroaches when the lights are turned on, the Republicans scurried to scuttle this deal when it came to light.

Heck, I know at least a half-dozen laid-off workers who still think Bush is the best thing since sliced bread, and would give their eye-teeth for $9.25 an hour.

But with that $200 million war chest, I guess money is no object. Wouldn't you they could get volunteers to man the phones?

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Saturday, May 22, 2004

Threats from beyond the grave

From Meet the Press, May 16, 2004
Russert: But, Mr. Secretary, if the Iraqis opt for an Islamic theocracy, which could easily become a haven for terrorists, how then do we explain to the 782 who died or the nearly over 4,000 who were wounded or injured that this was worth the fight?

Powell: I don't think that's going to be the case. I think that those who have given their lives in the cause of freedom for the Iraqi people will see that the Iraqi people are interested in creating a democracy.
Jeebus, an Army of the Dead?

I've already seen that movie, thanks.

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Friday, May 21, 2004

Behind and in front of prison bars

Carl (Sofarsogoo) at Unpopular Ideas gives us some interesting insights into life behind prison bars and those who guard the prisoners.

Dang; wish I could write like that.

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Head for the hills, the National Anthem Project is upon us
The National Association for Music Education is launching the National Anthem Project to renew national awareness of American traditions, promote the significance of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and re-teach America to sing the National Anthem through a three-year national consumer education campaign.
Just a personal opinion, but the number of singers I've heard who can actually harness and triumph over the Star Spangled Banner could fit inside a tuba.

We don't need a re-teaching; what we need is a new national anthem. Or at least some sort of competency requirement for those who make solo attempts.

But I never get on board the "new national anthem" bandwagon - I'm afraid "Proud To Be An American" will be chosen, and I wouldn't want that on my conscience.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" works well in group efforts, such as choruses or bands.The best rendition of the national anthem I've ever heard was by the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus at an Atlanta Braves game.

Instrumentalists can do a good job, too (see Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock).

First Lady Laura Bush is the honorary chair of The National Anthem Project, so I don't suppose the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus will be helping us all re-learn the anthem.

And I'm just a bit leery of that "promote the significance of The Star Spangled Banner" part, since it's basically a tribute to Shock 'n' Awe. Or surviving through it.

I really have no clue how to sing the third and fourth verse; the words don't seem to fit with the music (go ahead and try it; I'll cover my ears)-
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the Star-Spangled Banner, in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: “In God is our Trust.”
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
I suspect that last verse is the real point of "renewing our awareness", as it covers both "conquer we must" and "God", which should make all the wingers happy.

The National Anthem Project is expected to kick off in September 2004 and will include major singing celebrations throughout the country–at schools, professional sporting events and other local venues. The program to get America singing will culminate with the a record-setting performance of the National Anthem–hosted in Washington, DC in 2006 with simulcasts of local performances from “National Anthem Cities” across the country.
Thanks for the advance warning.


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Multiple choice

a) Army scoffs at allegations of marriage massacre
Senior U.S. military officers said yesterday an air strike in Iraq was a carefully planned and executed attack on a known group of insurgents, but Iraqis insisted that scores of innocent wedding guests, including children, had been slaughtered.
b) Survivors describe wedding massacre as generals refuse to apologise
She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm. By then her two boys lay dead. "I left them because they were dead," she said. One, she saw, had been decapitated by a shell.

"I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me. My youngest child was alive next to me."

Mrs Shibab's description, backed by other witnesses, of an attack on a sleeping village is at odds with the American claim that they came under fire while targeting a suspected foreign fighter safe house.
c) None of the above

d) Both of the above

I'm answering "d".

From the Guardian account (see "a" above for link) -
Among the dead were 27 members of the extended Rakat family, their wedding guests and even the band of musicians hired to play at the ceremony, among them Hussein al-Ali from Ramadi, one of the most popular singers in western Iraq.
When a celebrity - a wedding singer is killed, it's a little hard to pass it all off as nonsense.

Accountability? Responsibility?

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Et tu, Google?

From The Raw Story -
Google kills ad critical of Bush, lets pro-Bush ads continue running

"Now I know how Howard Stern feels," said co-creator Jerry Vasilatos. "What's ironic is that Google Adwords allows ad campaigns for products and items supportive of President Bush as can be attested by other sponsored links which appear when you search out the same keywords they deem unacceptable for our use."

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Birds of a feather

Via Josh Marshall -
From President Bush's commencement speech at LSU:

"On the job, and elsewhere in life, choose your friends carefully. The company you keep has a way of rubbing off on you. And that can be a good thing or a bad thing."
....and who better to lecture on the influence of bad company than the worst president since _____ (fill in the blank)?

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Few hopes when older workers lose jobs

Let's say you're 45 to 60 years old, employed in a non-union factory which pays a barely decent wage.

You have pretty good health care insurance through the company, which sure comes in handy for those frequent blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, and pays a portion of your prescription expense.

The retirement package is poor-to-mediocre, but maybe between the little bit you put into it plus Social Security and Medicare, it looks like you'll be able to eat, pay utilities, and buy your medicine once you retire. You have resolved not to think about any catastrophic emergencies.

You can't put as much into the retirement fund as the financial experts suggest, because you are raising three children. On top of the expense of caring for them, all three want to go to college. Because you've spent your working life toiling on the floor of a factory, you know higher education is important, and you're determined to see your children have a better life.

Then your job is "outsourced", or the company goes under.

You get another job, right? What if there are no other jobs available in your area?

Commute? Have you seen gas prices lately?

Retrain for another career? There are no other jobs, remember?

The following article is a couple of months old, but increasingly relevant today, especially as the economy "improves".

Take a look at life in Martinsville, Virginia - and remember, their situation is shared by hundreds of communities all over the country.

Job retraining offers limited hope in hard-hit textile, furniture belt
Regina Warren, 44, who was laid off in a 1999 plant closing, is all but resigned to a life of lower expectations.

"It may take me years to get to the point where I was when I fell down," she said. In fact, she added, "I don't think we'll ever really get back."

(snip)

The nation has shed 3 million manufacturing jobs in the past four years, thrusting trade into the spotlight in the presidential campaign. Democrats attack President Bush over his record in office. Bush promises that his tax cuts will lead to new jobs. But in Martinsville, (Virginia) all that seems theoretical. Reality is that thousands of jobs have left, and few new ones are on the horizon.
"Job retraining" is a nice, easy sound bite, but the fact is - jobs have disappeared, and the few that have been created are often lower paid with fewer or no benefits.
"There's training being offered," said Thomas Harned, the economic development director for Martinsville, "but training for what?"
Sometimes, the community colleges themselves can offer employment -
Former textile worker Warren, a part-time office assistant at the college, sits behind a desk making appointments for students who want to meet with career counselors.

She earns $9 an hour and clocks just 30 hours a week with no benefits. When she sewed sweatshirts, she made $12 to $13 hourly during the best years, and supplemented her income with overtime work.

Warren is a product of federally funded retraining. She enrolled at Patrick Henry in 2000 to learn office skills. Her family gave up summer vacations and cashed in $4,000 in savings bonds to pay bills, money that had been set aside for their son's college education.

Warren earned a two-year degree in business-oriented computer skills, but couldn't find a job when she graduated. She worked at a supermarket, earning $6 an hour. Eventually, the community college hired her as an office assistant.

Even today, the Warrens can't afford to fix the water pipes that leak into their basement. Instead, they turned off a valve, shutting off the outside water supply.
But remember - in our little scenario laid out at the beginning, you're nearing retirement.
But the results of retraining are limited. It tides workers over and prepares them for new jobs - but it doesn't provide jobs.

Only about 10 percent of qualified workers retrain. Some find other jobs; others think they're too old to go back to school.

"I'm 59 years old; what do I want to go to school for?" said former textile worker Robert Nichols, who lives in nearby Bassett, home of Bassett Furniture Industries. "And there ain't no jobs available around here anyway."

Calvin Gravely, who was laid off with 2,300 others when VF Imagewear shuttered in 2001, thinks the government should do more to help those hurt by free trade.
Added this to the poison-potion - community colleges are bursting at the seams with increased enrollment and decreased funding.

Should government do more? Should people give up on the "American Dream" because American business can be conducted cheaper in other countries?

Should there be massive public works projects, similar to the FDR's "New Deal" era? While we wait for the economy to bounce (or crawl) back, what is the government and/or corporate responsibility for the cast-off workers?

(cross-posted at Etalkinghead)

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Thursday, May 20, 2004

Run for prez, or get out of the way

Inside dope on everyone's favorite Theocrat, Roy Moore
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Iraq isn't at all like Vietnam

"Iraq" has only four letters, "Vietnam" seven!

They speak a totally different language!

Instead of jungle conditions, our troops face desert conditions!

During the Vietnam era, thousands enlisted rather than wait to be drafted; enlisting enabled them to choose duty in Japan, Germany or anywhere other than Vietnam.

Oh, wait -
Thousands of recent U.S. Army veterans nationwide were told to choose by Monday a new assignment in the Army Reserve or National Guard -- meaning a potential return to active duty -- or the military would decide for them. The Army now says the order was a mistake.

The consequence of the error appears to be a sharp increase in enlistments in Oregon and elsewhere by reservists who feared being assigned a unit without their consent. They face possible deployment to the Middle East.
(link)

I have no doubt we'll soon be seeing the headline - "Bush administration: Jump in re-enlistment numbers confirms resolve to "stay the course" in Iraq."

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A modern American masterpiece

Via Ezra at Pandagon -

With trembling fingers by Hal Crowther

Totally devastating.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The stem cell bank is open for business

But not in the United States, former world leader in scientific and technological research.

(link)
The world's first stem cell bank has opened its doors. The UK centre, which will grow and store stem cells for use in medical research, receives its first deposits today.

(snip)

"Stem-cell research offers real promise for the treatment of currently incurable diseases," says Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, which has co-funded the project with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "The bank will ensure that researchers can explore the enormous potential of this exciting science for the future benefit of patients," says Blakemore.

Scientists hope that stem cells will yield new therapies for a range of conditions, including diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. But much work is needed to understand the signals that guide the metamorphosis of the cells.
By Act of Parliament(Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990), strict ethical guidelines have been imposed for collection, storage, and research; including prohibition against human cloning, and a "conscientious objection" clause -
38.—(1) No person who has a conscientious objection to participating in any activity governed by this Act shall be under any duty, however arising, to do so.
Fortunately, the British are still speaking to us (so far), and our scientists will be able to share in this endeavor.

Unless Bush is re-selected in November.

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Is anyone minding the store?

Not only is nobody minding the store, but the employees are making off with the merchandise.

Via Jerome at Bad Attitudes from Newsday -
Biologist guilty of falsifying DNA reports

A former biologist in the FBI laboratory pleaded guilty yesterday to submitting falsified DNA analysis reports in more than 100 cases.

Jacqueline A. Blake, 40, of Upper Marlboro, Md., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington to a single count of making false statements on the official government reports she prepared. Blake faces a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Blake admitted that from August 1999 to June 2002, she wrote and submitted more than 100 reports containing false statements about her DNA analysis work. In particular, she falsely certified that she had performed certain control tests designed to ensure the reliability of the DNA analysis.
Something tells me these weren't for paternity tests.

How many people have been convicted on false DNA results? Are there any on death row? Have any been executed?


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Local news from Redneck Heaven
Republican Convention denies gay group booth
The (North Carolina) state Republican Party is denying a request from a group of gay party activists who want to open a booth at this weekend's state convention in Greensboro. A group that calls itself Log Cabin Republicans applied a month ago to set up a table at the convention. The party denied the request saying the group's mission does not match the state party's values. The ban has angered gay Republicans who say it is an example of the party engaging in cultural warfare. The Republican State Convention begins Friday at the Koury Convention Center.
Translation: No gays allowed. Leave money at door. Vote Republican in November.

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Something evil this way comes



Via Atrios and the Star-Telegram -
Unitarian group denied tax status

Unitarian Universalists have for decades presided over births, marriages and memorials. The church operates in every state, with more than 5,000 members in Texas alone.

But according to the office of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Denison Unitarian church isn't really a religious organization -- at least for tax purposes. Its reasoning: the organization "does not have one system of belief."
Jesus H. Christ/Allah/Buddha/whatever. I have no words to describe my disgust.

Many, many denominations and faiths allow - encourage diversity of interpretation. As a Quaker I should know; Quakers are a "non-creedal" religion, too.

Personally, I believe tax-exempt status on the basis of religion is a crock, and wouldn't mind if it were revoked for all.

But singling out one group - of whom she probably knows zilch - is ridiculous.

For M'Lady Strayhorn's benefit - "We believe that personal experience, conscience and reason should be the final authorities in religion, and that in the end religious authority lies not in a book or person or institution, but in ourselves."

Sounds like a mighty fine belief system to me.

Gossip is that Strayhorn is contemplating a switch to the Democratic Party and a run for Governor. Removing tax-exempt status for the Unitarian Universalists isn't exactly the best way to pave the way.

Keep in mind Strayhorn is Scottie McClellan's mamma, making him a true S.O.B.

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Cheap gas

No such thing at the moment, but you can check GasBuddy for the lowest prices in your area. Not all areas of the country covered, of course.

Good luck. I'm scared to venture out to see what the nearest gas station prices are today.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Veepstakes

CNN's Veepstakes is completed, and the winner is ....

(drumroll)

John Edwards.

The two finalists were John Edwards and Wesley Clark, and I happen to like both of them equally. In fact, I didn't enter a vote in the final round because I couldn't make up my mind.

Edwards has that great, engaging personality and down-home eloquence that appeals to voters all over the country - a good contrast with the more reserved John Kerry.

And yet, Wesley Clark has that stellar, 34-year military career under his belt, complete with combat experience and proven diplomatic credentials.

It all falls down to this - where will the campaign be when it comes time to select the candidate?

If the economy is to be the overriding issue - Edwards.

If foreign policy, T.W.A.T. (The War On Terror), and homeland security is the major concern - Clark.

Kerry may surprise with a totally different choice.

But isn't it nice to have such a great field to chose from?



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??

As I noted here, Kos here, and Atrios here, the Army is actively updated their Individual Ready Reserve lists.

As my daughter approached high school graduation last year, she received numerous calls and mail from recruiters.

We expected that; what we didn't expect was for the calls and mail to start again this year - a year after graduation.

The Army called two days ago, the Air Force yesterday, and she got an invitation to become an Army Of One in the mail today.

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Yep

It averages about $1.89 per gallon for regular in this area, which might not be an arm or leg but is at least an index finger or big toe.

What are you paying?
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Best. Commencement. Address. Ever.


Jon Stewart, The College of William & Mary

Many thanks to Michael for pointing me to the best commencement address ever. And believe me - I've dozed through enough commencement speeches to know quality when I see it.

Not only typically Stewart-funny, but very insightful.

A must-read.

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Tony Randall, R.I.P.


1920-2004

Bye, Felix.
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We are Yazid

From his unique perspective, Juan Cole not only provides detailed news on Iraq that you won't read elsewhere, but invaluable information on Islam and the ancient traditions and customs of the Shiites.
The Umayyad Caliph who sent military forces against Imam Husain, the grandson of the Prophet, and had him and his family and his party slaughtered, was named Yazid. The story of Yazid killing Husain is the central theological and ritual basis of Shiite Islam. It is like the passion of the Christ for devout Christians. And just as you wouldn't want to be identified as Judas by believing Christians, so the last thing you would want if you were among Shiites would be to be seen as in some way like Yazid.

For many Iraqi Shiites, the United States has become Yazid. And that is not something a colonial power can easily recover from. It will get worse. If the US is responsible or perceived as responsible for Muqtada's death, Muqtada will achieve iconic status as a martyr, as like Imam Husain, and his legend will inspire some portion of Shiites to fight the US to the death. Nor are Muqtada's partisans afraid of martyrdom. Achieving death at the hands of the new Yazid brings them and their families honor. And, for these poor slum boys, life anyway hasn't been that great. They know death; they are not afraid of it.

It was always my nightmare that the US Army would come to fight Shiites in Karbala and Najaf near the shrines. They seemed pretty canny about the dangers until about March of this year. And then all of a sudden, they risked being Yazid. I conclude that this does not come from the US officer corps. I conclude that it comes from the desk of George W. Bush. We don't have any officers in Iraq stupid enough to want to be Yazid. But we have civilian politicians who know nothing about Iraq who gave them an order to get Muqtada at all costs. Why that was so urgent is still not obvious, but, like everything in this war, it will be revealed to be a plot.
I don't know about a plot; Juan Cole doesn't don the tinfoil hat, but it may be that Muqtada is just a threat to Dubya's testosterone level.


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Monday, May 17, 2004

MAZEL TOV!



Congratulations to all the happy couples who were finally able to make honest men or women out of each other!

The day isn't over yet, but so far my own (heterosexual) marriage is just fine, nor has fire and brimstone rained down from the sky.

And I hear there were a few of the Phelps "God Hates Fags" crowd out, including one with a sign that read "Thank God for 9/11".

Shouldn't someone tell Ashcroft about that?
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Sunday, May 16, 2004

Support poop power!

Via Fourth Man at NFZ comes this fascinating discovery of the millennia - Poop Power -
After 25 years of persistent work, Marin County rancher Albert Straus has figured out a way to run his dairy farm, organic creamery and electric car from the manure generated by his herd of 270 cows.

Cheered on by a small gathering of engineers, environmentalists and fellow farmers, Straus stepped into a utility shed Thursday, switched on a 75- kilowatt generator, then stepped outside to snip the ribbon spanning a spanking-new electrical panel.

On the panel, an electricity meter began running backward, indicating that power originating from a nearby poop-filled lagoon near the town of Marshall was feeding into PG&E's electric power grid.

"Well," said Straus, with an understated shrug, "that was exciting."

But for Straus, as well as for many of the spectators, switching on the farm's new $280,000 methane digester system was not just a personal milestone -- it signaled an environmental breakthrough for the state's dairy industry.

While the technology for farm-based methane production has been around for two decades, economics and resistance from the utility industry have prevented all but a handful of California farmers from transforming their animal waste into energy.
As someone who comes from an "agriculturally intensive" part of the country, I find this quite exciting.

One recurring problem in North Carolina (and elsewhere, I'm sure) is pollution from hog farm waste. I'll willingly chip in a few extra bucks of state taxes to have those waste lagoons harnessed into something useful.

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Three strikes and you're...aw, have another two or three

Frequent astute commenter Bryan has mentioned this before, and here's the story -
Bush had three opportunities, long before the war, to destroy a terrorist camp in northern Iraq run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al-Qaida associate who recently cut off the head of Nicholas Berg. But the White House decided not to carry out the attack because, as the story puts it:

[T]he administration feared [that] destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
Go read the whole thing.

Personally, I figure they would have come up with plenty of other excuses.

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Anti-abortion mother made a saint
Doctors had told her it was dangerous to proceed with the pregnancy because she had a tumor in her uterus, but she insisted on carrying the baby to term.

In proclaiming her a saint, John Paul praised her "extreme sacrifice" and her simple but profound message.

"May our era rediscover, by the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, the pure, chaste and fertile beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine calling," he said.
With all due respect to the Catholic church, I totally fail to see the logic here.

What about "maternal love" and "family values"?

When Gianna Beretta Molla died, she deliberately - repeat, deliberately created four orphans - her infant and three other children approximately aged 3, 4, and 5 years old and put her family through hell.

What of these surviving children's lives? Are not they important, too? Did the Vatican step in to help raise them? Help with their homework? Take them to the doctor? Send them to college?

When I want the advice of celibate old bachelors on how to conceive, bear, raise, and educate a child - I'll ask them. Until then - bug off.

Let women choose according to the dictates of their conscience, the best interests of their family, and their doctor's advice.

On second thought, perhaps the choice of Gianna Beretta Molla for sainthood is not such a bad idea - St. Gianna of the Brokenhearted Families? St. Gianna of Orphans? A shining example of how a woman's choices affect more than herself.


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Calling the ball, and other observations

I took a break yesterday, not only from blogging, but from the computer altogether. It doesn't happen often, and it's not that I didn't read any news that interested me.

Instead, I spent a lazy day with The Tube, which also doesn't happen often.

I watched a great documentary on the Discovery Channel about the career of Hannibal; the most brilliant military tactician of (possibly) all time. His guiding principles? Know your enemy, and use the terrain to advantage.

If there's anything to reincarnation, I guess his soul is sitting out this generation. Or nobody is listening to him.

Then I watched the Preakness, and hit the Exacta. I didn't have the ways or means to actually place money on it, but it's sort of nice to know I was right.

You can't help but pull for Smarty Jones, and his exciting win yesterday reminded me of Secretariat's 31-length triumph in the Belmont.

Rock Hard Ten, my choice to place, is a big, rangy, gorgeous animal that I predict will set the racing world on fire in another year. He just needs to grow into his body and gain some racing experience.

And besides, his name reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows - "Third Rock From the Sun". So much for my nose for horseflesh.

I wish I'd taken the bet I was offered a little over a year ago - by this time, Iraq would be peaceful, all those nasty WMD's would be destroyed, and we'd all be awash in oil. I have developed a very good nose for Bushit.

Next up was my beloved Atlanta Braves vs. Milwaukee. Two of my favorite players charged full-tilt after a pop fly, and slammed into each other, causing grievous injury to poor Marcus Giles, great second baseman and definitely easy on the eyes. Neither player was calling the ball.

In my younger, more active days, I played softball with my company team in an Industrial League. Somehow, I got stuck in center-right field, instead of on the bench where I belonged.

The coach drilled "calling the ball" into our heads, and I quickly became famous for standing there and hollering "It's YOURS! It's YOURS!" whenever the ball came in my general direction.

Do you get the feeling that Dubya is another "It's YOURS!" player? If he hollers anything at all?

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Friday, May 14, 2004

Sliding straight to hell

Earlier today, I posted a bit about nice cool air being pumped into the venue where Our War Leader was speaking, while students watching his "presidential visit" (translation - photo op/campaign stop) sat crunched together in a hot high school gym.

Coincidentally, while the Miserable Failure was stumping for votes in the cool air, Riverbend gives us a hint of conditions in Iraqi schools:
We're all donating money to the school in the area so they can remain hooked up to the local power generator during the day while the kids are being tested. You can see them in the streets and trapped behind car windows looking flushed and wilted. We're all praying that they'll be able to finish the year without anything drastic happening (well, relatively drastic).
Read her latest post; if even half of what she says is correct, the real horrors have only begun.
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Assad gets it

Syrian President Bashar Assad may be a big wheel in the Axis of Evil, but he speaks without forked tongue -
"We are going to change," Syrian President Bashar Assad said. "The first thing I proposed as president was change. But our political life is based on certain tribal and political customs. They don't go back just tens of years; they go back thousands of years. It's not so easy to change. ... We are still at the beginning of this process. We have a long road ahead of us."
Neither will Iraq morph into NeoCon Heaven overnight, or on June 30, 2004, or for years - and for their sake, I hope never.

One of the chief insanities of this whole Iraq mess is the total ignorance of history, culture, and customs. Assad may not be a paragon of democratic virtues, but he could teach the Bush administration volumes about his part of the world.

....if they weren't too arrogant to listen.

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Bush Tells Wis. Graduates to Help Others

Because, as we all know, the preznit and his administration have no intention of doing anything for anyone but themselves.
President Bush implored college graduates Friday to offer a helping hand to down-and-out Americans, showcasing the kinder, gentler side of his agenda at a time when images of wartime brutality are pouring out of Iraq.

"Many of us find that there is much more to life than getting and keeping," Bush said at the Concordia University of Wisconsin's commencement. America "rejects the ethic of sink or swim," he said.
Most observers agreed the preznit said it with a straight face.



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I wish I had a dime for every time I've heard someone - not just wingers - say, "Our jails have air conditioning, but the school's don't!" I've said it myself, and think it's a very good point. In warm climates, certainly, BOTH should have air-conditioning.

So Dubya is doing a photo op/campaign appearance at a school in West Virginia, blathering about the No Child Left Behind business -
On his second visit to West Virginia in the past two months, President Bush faced an audience in a hot, crowded high school gym that, in addition to his cheering supporters, included voters who say they're ready for a change in the nation's leadership.

During an appearance once again labeled a "presidential visit" and not a campaign stop, Bush talked to a crowd Thursday at Parkersburg South High School about his No Child Left Behind act and the development of college preparatory programs in public schools.

(snip)

Brum said that on Thursday one only had to look around the school to see how the expensive No Child Left Behind requirements are affecting students.

"We've got 1,200 students sitting over there in an un-air conditioned auditorium watching this (on television) with fans blowing on them to keep cool," she said. "Here, we've pumped in air conditioning for the President. I resent that. We need to first make sure there's money to provide students with an adequate learning environment."

(via Atrios, from the Charleston Daily Mail)
If he hasn't broken a sweat over Iraq, he's not human. A little time spent in a sweltering high school gym would be a piece of cake.

Dodgeball, anyone?


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Typing "do not Google upskirt photo" one thousand times

Because I got an eye-full when I did it.

All I really wanted was an article like Congress targets cell phone camera peeping Toms

Ladies, you can solve the problem by adopting the Andante Defense - wear blue jeans 99% of waking hours.

Perverts, you can outwit Congress and adopt the Giggly Preschooler Method -



Or the Giggling Honor Guard On Windy Day Tactic -



Further pictures (not taken with a camera phone) - for strictly educational purposes, of course, can be found here.

But it's only fair to warn you; Ashcroft is watching.

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BLOG WAR

Greg at News From the Sixth Borough surely knows I'm terrified of snakes, yet publishes a truly horrific picture on his blog.

Must retaliate.

Snakehead's Latest Lair: The Potomac ; Anglers Asked to Help in Hunt

Yeah, right. Let me just get out my waders and net.



Other disgusting, dangerous critters spotted along the Potomac -




The world is indeed a dangerous place.


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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Our national nightmare is over

Powell says "nothing has gone wrong" in Iraq

Thank God....I knew the last four years was just a bad dream!

Now that I'm awake, I think I'll send President Gore a few more dollars for his re-election campaign.

We can't risk letting those neo-con bozos getting a foothold in the halls of power. You wouldn't believe the trouble they can cause.
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Hot on the case of the terrorists

No surprise here -
U.S. Takes Greenpeace to Court in Unusual Trial

Greenpeace, charged with the obscure crime of "sailor mongering" that was last prosecuted 114 years ago, goes on trial on Monday in the first U.S. criminal prosecution of an advocacy group for civil disobedience.

The environmental group is accused of sailor mongering because it boarded a freighter in April 2002 that was carrying illegally felled Amazon mahogany to Miami. It says the prosecution is revenge for its criticism of the environmental policies of President Bush, whom it calls the "Toxic Texan."
Update: "Sailor mongering?" -
Sailor mongering was rife in the 19th century when brothels sent prostitutes laden with booze onto ships as they made their way to harbor. The idea was to get the sailors so drunk they could be whisked to shore and held in bondage, and a law was passed against it in 1872. It has only been used in a court of law twice, the last time in 1890.
No doubt Ashcroft's DoJ is well-versed on all laws touching prostitution. It's just a happy coincidence that they can snag "environmental terrorists" with it.

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Tinfoil?

Was Berg already dead when he was beheaded?

I hope so.
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U.S. will leave Iraq if asked

Okay....

Riverbend - Just Go

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Army updating Individual Ready Reserve
The IRR reservists are usually soldiers who have left active-duty or active reserve service but still have time left on their obligation to serve. They agree to keep themselves ready to be called up in an emergency but are not required to do the periodic training other reservists must perform.
Would a certain Miserable Failure qualify?

I guess not; though it would be ultimate kismet, huh?
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And the beat goes on

Another government falls to a left-leaning challenger - India.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Hostage beheaded in Iraq

Dreadful; absolutely dreadful.
The White House condemned the killing, which it said reinforced its insistence that US abuses of prisoners paled in comparison with the crimes of its enemies.
Also dreadful; absolutely dreadful.

Lower your own damned bar, Bush. The American people and the world deserve better.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Remember Lieutenant-General William "Jerry" Boykin?
Boykin has appeared in uniform in churches around the country over the past two years proclaiming, among other things, that the enemy in the "war on terrorism" is "a guy named Satan" and that the god worshipped by Muslims is "an idol".
Are you surprised to know that he's popped up in connection with the Abu Ghraib scandal?
behind Rumsfeld's apologies lies an attempt to cover up a controversial character hired by him to pin down the "interrogation" process: Lieutenant-General William "Jerry" Boykin, a Christian fundamentalist and no lover of Muslims.

(snip)

Boykin is the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Intelligence under Stephen Cambone, a personal friend of Rumsfeld and one who has the defense secretary's ears. The presence of Cambone as Boykin's boss has previously helped Rumsfeld avoid questions surrounding alleged mistreatment of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, and even of Muslim prisoners in general.

(snip)

Boykin's job in the Pentagon makes his Christian fundamentalist background especially sensitive: he is charged with speeding up the flow of intelligence on terrorist leaders to combat teams in the field so that they can attack top-ranking terrorist leaders. It can easily be speculated that it is this urgency to obtain intelligence, and an uncompromising religious outlook backed by a "beast-man" mentality, that has led to the lower echelons in the US military to adopt Saddam Hussein-like brutalities. It is quite possible that now that the lid on the excesses in Iraq has been lifted, more reports will surface.
Onward, Christian soldiers......


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Church of Fools

There's at least one of those on every corner down here in Rightwing Heaven, but if you'll click the link in the title you'll find an "online 3D church", sponsored by the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

Shockwave is required to enter the "church", but there are other goodies on the site worth checking out.

Enjoy the "Mystery Worshipper", "Bless That Pet" caption contest, "Captain's Log", and "Gory, Gory, Hallelujah".

I especially liked "And Then There Were Eleven" -
It was a tough choice, but after receiving more than 2,000 entries in our 11th Commandment competition, here are the winners -

Thou shalt not worship false pop idols
Thou shalt not kill in the name of any god
Thou shalt not confuse text with love
Thou shalt not consume thine own body weight in fudge
Thou shalt not be negative
The runners-up are pretty good, too; as are a few "thou shalts".

Enjoy!

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Syria hit with sanctions for links to terrorists, weapons program
President Bush slapped tough economic sanctions on Syria Tuesday as punishment for the country's ties to terrorists, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and its attempts to undermine the U.S.-led occupation in Iraq.
Sounds like Syria may have hit the trifecta, and be eligible for the Grand Prize - an all-expenses paid, US taxpayer-financed "liberation".

But - gee, golly-whiz, where would Dubya and Rummy get the troops? Perhaps the good folks at the Selective Service might have a few ideas?

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Yet another strong voice on the left

Please join me in offering a (belated) welcome to Carl at Unpopular Ideas to the blogoshere!

If you've hung around here or various other pinko-commie-librul blogs, you've seen his astute comments as "Sofarsogoo".

I particularly enjoyed An Appreciation of the French , Incest at a Discreet Remove , Seriously Now, and - well, everything. Go say hello...shoo, shoo, shoo!
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"Bring it on!"

What Dubya wants, Dubya gets - Video 'shows US man beheaded'
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An eye for an eye

Much of the rightwing response to the abuses of Iraqi prisoners - indeed, a good deal of our "get tough" laws - stem from Exodus 21:24 -
"Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,"
But a little reading around that verse and a brief overview of ancient history renders a very different interpretation.

From "An Eye for an Eye - Get-Tough Laws Under Biblical Scrutiny" (by Paul M. Bischke)
In ancient Palestine, offenses against one's honor were met with an escalating response. If someone stole one of your sheep, the manly thing to do was to go and kill five of his cows. If some careless bozo trampled a row of your corn with his ox-cart, you might go and set fire to his field. In other words, "teach 'em a lesson."

The eye-for-an-eye ethic put a lid on this escalating violence, insisting that punishment or restitution be proportional to the actual, demonstrable harm done, and that it not be determined by the rage of the party offended. For example, Leviticus 24:18 says, "And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast." The eye-for-an-eye principle placed rational limits on retribution and punishment -- a true step of moral progress.
The spiral of violence, "honor killings", and mandatory severe punishment still persists in many places throughout the world. Including the United States of America.
The "eye for an eye" principle forbids us from visiting excessive severity upon an individual in order to `send a message' to the larger society. Primitive societies administered such symbolic punishments freely. The Romans "made examples" of criminals to deter crime -- hence their use of public crucifixion. The Judaeo-Christian tradition, however, takes the flesh-and-blood individual very, very seriously. Whenever a society treats a living person as an abstract symbol or as the embodiment of some larger generalized evil, Christianity cries foul.
Or at least, the "Judeo-Christian tradition" should cry foul. This important moral principle has been hijacked throughout the ages by barbarians in civilized clothing.

Unfortunately, many of our loudest moral windbags have been oddly silent on the Abu Ghraib scandal, yet continue to be the driving force behind severe "symbolic" punishments and justify killing and atrocity by calling for more killing and atrocity.

John Moody (Senior Vice President, News Editorial of Fox News) says
Without showing the charred bodies of Americans dangling in ignominy, or the lopped off-arms of justice Saddam-style, how can we judge the pictures we are now clucking over?
We can very easily judge by asking ourselves - "is this right?" Any person, people, or country that aspires to take the moral high ground - and presumes to preach it to others - must act on the basis of right versus wrong; regardless of "justification".

Moody sums up the question posed by all those who seek to "justify" abuses -
Do we expect American soldiers to be morally superior to the people who are trying to kill them, and at the same time win a war in which there are no rules of conduct for one side?
The short answer? Yes.

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Monday, May 10, 2004

More 'blowing off steam'

From the Asia Times
The Indian government has asked the United States for information on reports that Indian nationals were being forced to work for contractors in Iraq with little rest and low pay and held "against their will". The Ministry of External Affairs asked the US Embassy in New Delhi for details on the number of Indians working in Iraq, a ministry spokesman said. The ministry "expressed its concern regarding the disturbing reports about the conditions in which some Indian nationals are being forced to work for contractors active in Iraq", a statement said. The embassy was asked about news reports "that Indians who wished to leave were unable to do so, and were being compelled to continue to remain in Iraq against their will", the statement said.
Slave labor?

Stay tuned, as the Bush administration spreads the joys of Amerikan values all over the world.

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Sunday, May 09, 2004


Ding, dong, the wicked witch has her own ballot rejected

Heh, heh....


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NATO Balking at Iraq Mission
From the LA Times
Amid rising violence and public opposition to the occupation, allies want to delay a major commitment until after the U.S. election.

The Bush administration's hopes for a major NATO military presence in Iraq this year appear doomed, interviews with allied defense officials and diplomats show.

The Western military alliance had expected to announce at a June summit that it would accept a role in the country, perhaps by leading the international division now patrolling south-central Iraq. But amid continuing bloodshed and strong public opposition to the occupation in many nations, allies want to delay any major commitment until after the U.S. presidential election in November, officials say.

(snip)

One U.S. hope had rested with NATO. Within the alliance, there seemed to be "a sense of inevitability about the mission" as recently as a few weeks ago, said one NATO official. "But it's just not there anymore…. Any enthusiasm there was has drained away."
Well, that seems pretty plain.

If Bush is re-selected, NATO will continue to sit on it's hands. If Kerry is elected, NATO may be more willing to cooperate.

Still looking for a reason to vote for Kerry? Given the amount of money and blood we've been squandering in Iraq, that seems like a good enough reason to me.

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Missing voices

The voices condemning Iraqi prisoner abuses are growing minute by minute.

I've been busy today, being honored for my motherhood, so I may have missed something.

But has anyone heard from Jerry Falwell? Pat Robertson? James Dobson? Bill Bennett? The Christian Coaltion? Anyone from the "Religious Wrong"?

Where are our Moral Custodians during this scandal?

Inquiring minds want to know - What Would Jesus Do?
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Saturday, May 08, 2004

One of those countries

I'm recuperating nicely from all the recent muscle aches and pains. Some "gentle walking" today - actually, walking behind a lawnmower - and a soak in an Epsom salt and hydrogen peroxide bath has done wonders.

But emotionally - I feel terribly depressed about the stories of abuse and torture from Iraqi prisons.

I hope you make a regular practice of reading Riverbend's Baghdad Burning. If not, click the link and bookmark it this instant.

I've been thinking today about her post of April 11, 2004 - One of Those Countries, written shortly after a spate of foreign civilians were taken hostage -
The hostage situations are a mess. I watch television and it feels like I'm watching another country. All I can think is, "We've become one of *those* countries..." You know- the ones where hostages are taken on a daily basis and governments warn their civilians of visiting or entering the country. It's especially sad because even during those long years during the blockade and in between wars and bombings, there were never any attacks on foreigners. Iraqis are hospitable, friendly people who always used to treat foreigners with care... now, everyone is treated like a potential enemy.
Like it or not, we've become one of "those" countries.

After World War II, many Germans said of the Holocaust - "we didn't know". I've read this quite often, and thought, "they just didn't want to know", or "yeah, right". Now I know what it feels like to be a citizen of one of "those" countries.

There were rumors of abuses, but I didn't pay much attention to them. The Arab press has tended to be hysterical at times - I put the rumors down to more wolf-crying.

And surely - surely - the United States of America wasn't one of those countries.

Where do we go from here?

The Iraqis - not to mention virtually every Muslim in the world - will not be in a hurry to "forgive" us. No amount of electricity, water, oil, schools, hospitals, or money raining from the skies will wipe out the memory of the pictures plastering every newspaper in the world.

There are calls for Rumsfeld to resign, or for Bush to fire him; either would be a positive gesture to a culture where symbols are important. Tearing down Abu Ghraib prison would be another good signal. Re-selecting Bush would be the worst possible symbol.

Only a new administration can even begin to restore faith in the United States; not only to the rest of the world, but to it's own citizens.

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Friday, May 07, 2004

The source of the evil

The Iraqi prisoner abuses didn't just spring out of nowhere. Lack of proper supervision and training obviously played a large role.

But what about the atmosphere, the aura, the culture - whatever you want to call it?

Via Josh Marshall, , a former British officer just returned from Iraq spells it out -
"The feeling among US soldiers I've spoken to in the last week is also that 'the gloves are off'. Many of them still think they are dealing with people responsible for 9/11".
Dear God in heaven - if Iraqi prisoners were treated this way, what goes on in the prisons of Afghanistan and Gitmo?

"Bring it on", "wanted dead or alive" - the macho posturing from the Bush administration is ultimately responsible for this catastrophe.

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Woes of a couch potato

As usual, my mind says "thirty" but my body says "ninety". Never mind what my birth certificate says.

It has been cruelly demonstrated to me that I need to, shall we say - improve my physical condition.

On Wednesday, I went up to the beautiful North Carolina mountains to help first-and-only-born child move her possessions back home for the summer.

Her room is on the fourth floor of the dorm (no elevator), and you have to go up a flight of steps just to get to the first floor.

The dear child had already packed her car with most of her belongings. The only things left were a small refrigerator, microwave, 19-inch TV, laptop computer, a box of last-minute stuff, a very heavy suitcase, and a broom.

In a rush of what little testosterone is allotted me, I carried down the refrigerator. Then I carried down the television.

Then I pretty much collapsed.

I recuperated long enough to trudge back up to get the broom - it's not the first time I wished I could hop on a broom and fly.

The trip back home was pretty much a blur....the only thing I remember is how lovely the mountains were; the new-budding trees are a thousand different shades of green, punctuated by snowy white dogwoods and bright redbuds.

I also remember being extraordinarily grateful for cruise control.

So, now I'm in agony. My leg muscles feel like Jello, and have an odd tendency to give out on me at the darnedest times.

I've soaked in a hot tub with Epsom salts, and am single-handedly keeping the Sportscreme people in business. I've done a little gentle walking, but carried a walking stick, just in case.

My dear, wonderful medical acupuncturist gave me his best advice - get in better shape.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it - help!

Number one - what else can I do to deal with this pain and speed recovery?

Number two - any suggestions for a brief, gradual physical fitness plan happily considered.

The good news......next semester, her room will be on the first floor.

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

Due to technical difficulties....
Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 4, 2004

Postponement of Release of “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004”

The release of “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004” scheduled for May 5, 2004 has been postponed for technical reasons that have held up completion of the report. We will announce a new date for the release of the report once it reaches the final stage of printing.

2004/489
[End]

Released on May 4, 2004
All things considered, probably a pretty good idea.


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From Salon -
Claiming ignorance is a standard defense for the administration in justifying why it did not act sooner and more aggressively to address the abuse at Abu Ghraib. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers asked CBS to hold the 60 Minutes II story that first widely exposed the alleged torture at Abu Ghraib and launched the haunting images worldwide -- three weeks before the story ran. Yet Myers claimed as recently as Sunday that he didn't yet read the Army's report on Abu Ghraib, which was completed in February. "It's working its way to me. I haven't seen it," he told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation. Someone else who hasn't yet read the full report: Donald Rumsfeld.
Claiming ignorance as the standard defense seems to be the leitmotiv running through this entire administration.

Just as troublesome - the only apology I've heard so far has come from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, just recently placed in command the US prison system in Iraq.

Oh, there's plenty of "not my fault", "not the American way", etc.

But an outright apology seems to be the evil of which no one speaks.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Our area's Hispanic population has increased nearly 500% in the last several years, while public school instruction in the Spanish language has decreased miserably.

Professional Spanish interpreters are in high demand by law enforcement and the field of medicine. If you're fluent in both English and Spanish, head this way for a good job.

The Buchanan "Pitchfork Brigade" -types have also come out of the woodwork, demanding further restrictions on immigration and that illegals be shot on sight. Sadly, the racists have added their filthy two cents to the debate.

I'll bet the hacienda they've never bothered getting to know any of our Hispanic population. Wish they could meet my next door neighbor's young son-in-law; he works his butt off (and a very cute little butt it is, I might add) at three part-time jobs for minimum wage and no benefits.

His English is somewhere between marginal and almost, but he works hard at it, just as he does his paying jobs. I've tried to help him with the English, but you saw the extent of my Spanish vocabulary in the fourth paragraph.

Okay, add "taco", "enchilada", "burrito", and other edible things to the list.

Add "Cinco de Mayo".....click the link for a little historical perspective, see why it has great relevance to The Events of The Day, and celebrate our ties with our southern neighbors!

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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Army of One

Continuing a bit on David Hackworth's site -
A Women Soldier Says

Our supply lines have been hit hard. Because of all the violence/IEDs and kidnappings, they have shut down 2 major highways. The mess hall has run out of fresh food. I can't complain. We have enough MREs to last us probably 6 months but I quit eating those things after the first Gulf War. I will have to be starving to start eating MRE's again. Tom has sent me enough popcorn and oatmeal for me to live on for awhile. Mail is getting through about twice a week. Thank God my husband sent me coffee and my MSG received coffee from his bride because the Mess Hall ran out of coffee a long time ago. Many of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers just quit and haven't shown up for work in weeks and the civilian truck drivers don't feel safe on the highways anymore. I don't blame the drivers.

The mortars keep coming into our compound but the noise doesn't bother us anymore. We had another attack at the front gate of our compound today. We have lost 25 Soldiers in 2 months. I had not anticipated such heavy losses. It is very sad especially because most of them are so young. Our fellow Marines have been hit hard too.
Before we start increasing troop levels - or even just maintaining the current levels - perhaps the Pentagon should consider properly equipping the troops already there?

Will someone tell Rummy that "An Army of One" does not mean enough food or equipment for only one man or woman in every platoon?

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So touched by the concern

I continue to be amazed and disgusted by the lack of outrage from the administration over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

Via Josh Marshall, an exchange between the press and the Naked Emperor -
Q: Are you concerned that there was a report completed in February that apparently --

THE PRESIDENT: I haven't seen --

Q: -- Myers didn't know about yesterday --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, if Myers didn't know about it, I didn't know about it. In other words, he's part of the chain -- actually, he's not in the chain of command, but he's a high ranking official. We'll find out.

Q: The question is, should something causing --

THE PRESIDENT: I just need to know --

Q: -- concern, raised eyebrows --

THE PRESIDENT: Exactly. I think you'll find the investigation started quickly when they found out what was going on. What I need to know is what the investigators concluded.
No, George.

Get on the phone, use some colorful language, demand the report on your desk not next week, not tomorrow, but in TEN MINUTES.

Read it. Or have someone read it to you.

Then demand the torturer's heads on a platter - publicly - and apologize to the world for these atrocities.

Don't give us any crap about not interfering with justice....you've been quick enough to jump in head first in the past.

I wish someone would explain to Dubya that the President of the United States' job requires something a little more than a glad-handing front man.

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David Hackworth -
Deploying without sufficient armor and then having to fly 70-ton Abrams tanks to Iraq is as flaky as almost everything else about a war where politicians were proclaiming just a year ago that once we drained the swamps, the rest would be rice and flowers.

If “Blood and Guts” Gen. George Patton had been running things, he’d have roared when told to deploy to a battlefield without all of his killing gear. Rest assured that the 1st Cavalry, 1st Infantry and 1st Marine Divisions would have shipped out with their full kit of heavy weapons instead of liberation light.

But there are few Pattons at the top of today’s military who know the fighting game and have the guts to tell Perfumed Prince superiors that their poor decisions could get soldiers killed. So now – according to the Pentagon’s Lt. Col. Diane Battaglia – our brilliant Brass are “repositioning assets” while our soldiers and Marines are absorbing rocket propelled grenades and road-side mines in thin-skinned vehicles far more fit for a vacation at Yosemite than for combat.
"Liberation light" - I like that.

"Operation Liberation Light" - light on justification, light on manpower, light on equipment, light on allies, light on morals, light on intelligence, light on understanding the culture.

Is there any light at the end of this tunnel?
.
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Run, Roy, run

From Salon (day pass or subscription) - Will Roy Moore crack the Bush base?
the 57-year-old Moore is acting more and more like a candidate as he crisscrosses the country, speaking at gatherings of Christian rightists, home-schoolers and state conventions of the far-right Constitution Party, which was on 41 state ballots in the 2000 election, and is courting Moore to head its ticket. If he ran on the Constitution Party ticket, he would probably be on more state ballots than Nader this year. With 320,000 members it is the third-largest party in the U.S, in terms of registered voters.
I'm not sure Judge Graven Image would have that much impact; but, heck - I'd love to see him try.

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Monday, May 03, 2004

Still alive and kickin'

Sorry for the deafening silence here at Collective Sigh - it's been a busy couple of days. Hopefully, blogging returns tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out this from the Moonie Times -
If it wasn't a quagmire, it was certainly quagmiry. And the first prominent retired general to break ranks with President Bush's Iraq war policy was a Republican who once headed the National Security Agency and also served as a deputy national security adviser. Gen. William E. Odom, a fluent Russian speaker who teaches at Georgetown and Yale universities, told the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood staying the course in Iraq is untenable.

(snip)

Gen. Odom says bluntly, "we have failed," and "the issue is how high a price we're going to pay — less by getting out sooner, or more by getting out later."

At best, Iraq will emerge from the current geopolitical earthquake as "a highly illiberal democracy, inspired by Islamic culture, extremely hostile to the West and probably quite willing to fund terrorist organizations," Gen. Odom explained. If that wasn't enough to erode support for the war, he added, "The ability of Islamist militants to use Iraq as a beachhead for attacks against American interests elsewhere may increase."
The only question left is - What more can the Bush administration do to make things worse before we make an untidy exit?

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Saturday, May 01, 2004

Happy Loyalty Day

Something told me I shouldn't read the news today; I should stick to my plan of yard work and watching the Kentucky Derby sandwiched between a Braves doubleheader.

I'm a proud, "bleeding heart" liberal, and today my heart is bleeding. I'm ashamed of what has been done in my name.

I know the stories of American soldiers torturing Iraqis have been around for a while, but I always thought they were just isolated incidences that would be swiftly dealt with, or perhaps sensational exaggerations.

Weren't they? I really wanted to believe that.

It seems not.

Juan Cole gets to the core -
In significant part these practices are a direct result of Rumsfeld policies--the Pentagon's kidnapping of unprepared reservists for long-term military duty in Iraq, supplemented by unregulated cowboy security firms. It has already been forgotten that some of the fighting around Najaf was done by US private security guards, who even deployed an attack helicopter! The rhetoric that all those who oppose the US presence in Iraq are "terrorists" also dehumanizes prisoners of war and implies that they are akin to the 9/11 hijackers, when in fact many of them are just neighborhood boys who took up a gun to defend their city quarter from what they saw as a foreign incursion.

I really wonder whether, with the emergence of these photos, the game isn't over for the Americans in Iraq. Is it realistic, after the bloody siege of Fallujah and the Shiite uprising of early April, and in the wake of these revelations, to think that the US can still win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi Arab public?
The 'battle for hearts and minds' started out as an uphill slog. The barbaric, disgusting pictures of Iraqi prisoners being tortured and humiliated at the hands of Americans are plastered on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

We've not only lost that battle - we've become monsters in the eyes of millions upon millions of people.

Did you catch that - "we"?

That's me, that's you, that's your mamma. Drop any of us in the middle of a Muslim country, and they wouldn't make the distinction between us and the torturers.

"Don't blame me, I voted for Gore (or Nader or anybody but Bush)" - would not help you.

Riverbend is a "must" read -
I know the messages that I’m going to get- the ones that say, “But this happened under Saddam...” Like somehow, that makes what happens now OK... like whatever was suffered in the past should make any mass graves, detentions and torture only minor inconveniences now.

(snip)

I want something done about it and I want it done publicly. I want those horrible soldiers who were responsible for this to be publicly punished and humiliated. I want them to be condemned and identified as the horrible people they are. I want their children and their children’s children to carry on the story of what was done for a long time- as long as those prisoners will carry along with them the humiliation and pain of what was done and as long as the memory of those pictures remains in Iraqi hearts and minds...
.I want something done about it, and I want it done publicly, too.

Unfortunately, Bush never recognizes that he makes mistakes, and never fires those among his Band of Merry Men that do.

While professing a "deep disgust", Bush proclaimed in today's radio address -
One year later, despite many challenges, life for the Iraqi people is a world away from the cruelty and corruption of Saddam's regime. At the most basic level of justice, people are no longer disappearing into political prisons, torture chambers, and mass graves -- because the former dictator is in prison, himself. And their daily life is improving.
Obviously, our "war president" is doing what I maybe should have done; ignore the news, and enjoy some sporting events on the tube.

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Friday, April 30, 2004

Just in time for your Loyalty Day celebrations!

Bush administration challenging limits on executive power

Now, I know what you're thinking - "Thank you, Mr. Bush, for agreeing not to exceed your constitutional authority and to share more of the decision-making process with Congress and maybe even some people who know what they're talking about."

BZZZZZZT......wrong.
Late in the Supreme Court arguments last week over the Bush administration's jailing of two citizens as suspected terrorists, the president's advocate stripped the legal veneer from his position and exposed the bold proposition underneath.

Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement told the justices that at some point, "you have to trust the executive to make the kind of quintessential military judgments that are involved." Trust that the government isn't detaining citizens without sufficient reason. Trust that the president won't exceed his constitutional authority.
Yes, master....we trust. We obey. Everything is A-Number-One-Okey-Dokey.

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Pollution of the airwaves

Via Atrios, I learned yesterday that my local ABC affiliate (WXLV) would not air tonight's "Nightline" segment, in which Ted Koppel will read the names and show the pictures of those troops who have given their life serving in Iraq.

I fired off an e-mail, asking (respectfully & politely) why they didn't choose to so honor our troops?

Here's what I just got back -
Statement of Sinclair Broadcast Group

The ABC Television Network announced on Tuesday that the Friday, April 30 edition of "Nightline" will consist entirely of Ted Koppel
reading aloud the names of U.S. servicemen and women killed in action in Iraq. Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.

While the Sinclair Broadcast Group honors the memory of the brave members of the military who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country, we do not believe such political statements should be disguised as news content. As a result, we have decided to preempt the broadcast of "Nightline" this Friday on each of our stations which air ABC programming.

We understand that our decision in this matter may be questioned by some. Before you judge our decision, however, we would ask that you first question Mr. Koppel as to why he chose to read the names of 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorist attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001. In his answer, we believe you will find the real motivation behind his action scheduled for this Friday.
The reply I sent back wasn't polite or respectful.

The whole damned Iraq war is motivated by a purely political agenda - Dubya's re-selection, and the Sinclair Broadcast Group is nothing but another mouthpiece for the White House - Atrios has more today.

If a Sinclair station is stinking up your neighborhood, give them a buzz -

WXLV, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point NC 336-274-484
WEAR, Pensacola 850-456-3333
KDNL, St. Louis
WSYX, Columbus OH 614-481-6666
WLOS, Asheville NC 828-684-1340
WCHS, Charleston, Huntington W VA 304-346-5358
WGGB, Springfield MA (413) 733-4040

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What are YOUR plans for Loyalty Day?

Tomorrow is Loyalty Day -
In 1947, amidst the anti-Communist Cold War hysteria, the U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars renamed May 1st "Loyalty Day" and a joint session of Congress later made the pronouncement official. Loyalty Day was explicitly designed as a weapon against leftist labor tendencies, and specifically the American Communist Party, by encouraging citizens to reaffirm their commitment to the State. The right of citizens to join legal political parties of their own choosing without harassment was apparently not an American value to be celebrated on this holiday.
The Republicans have a few suggestions -
Loyalty Day (May 1): Loyalty Day is simply a day for all of us to show our loyalty to the nation. In addition to op-eds and a release, our member can call on all local governmental buildings to fly the American flag that day, as President Bush has asked all federal government buildings to do. Your member can also lead a class of young school children in the Pledge of Allegiance or address a school assembly on the importance of loyalty to the nation. This is also another good PSA opportunity, reminding all of your constituents to be aware of the day and to honor it in their own way. (thanks to Michael for the link)
Apparently, the North Koreans celebrate 'Loyalty Day' every day!
Many North Koreans died a "heroic death" after last week's train explosion by running into burning buildings to rescue portraits of leader Kim Jong-il and his father, the North's official media reported on Wednesday.

Portraits of Kim and his late father, national founder Kim Il-sung, are mandatory fixtures in every home, office and factory in the hardline communist state of 23 million. All adults are required to wear lapel pins bearing images of one or both Kims.
I certainly don't intend to rescue any pictures of Bush from burning buildings, but I think I will take the Republicans up on one of their suggestions - to honor it in my own way.

I'll make a donation to the Kerry campaign. Getting rid of George and his merry band is the best way I can imagine to demonstrate loyalty to the country.

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Thursday, April 29, 2004

First Amendment Zoning New York

City Denies Anti-War Rally Permit
An anti-war group planning a massive demonstration at the start of the Republican National Convention in Manhattan has been denied a permit to rally in Central Park because the crowd would be too large.

The parks department denied the request by United for Peace and Justice organizers, who applied last June for a permit to rally in the park's Great Lawn after marching from 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue. The march permit request, submitted separately to the police department, is pending.

The anti-war group was preparing an appeal, which is part of the parks permit process, group leader Leslie Cagan said Wednesday.

(snip)

The permit denial letter said the Aug. 29 event, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of protesters, would exceed the 55-acre Great Lawn's capacity of 80,000 people. United for Peace and Justice indicated on its permit that it expected 250,000 demonstrators.

"In the view of the parks department, an event attended by 250,000 people would cause enormous damage to the lawn," the letter said.

(snip)

In a separate development, a coalition of unions representing police officers and firefighters has requested permits to demonstrate during the convention. Union members claim they are underpaid compared with their counterparts in other cities and are underfunded for fighting terrorism -- complaints they plan to voice when the Republicans come to town.

No decision has been made on those permits, but "the rules of protest will apply to them like everybody else," Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

"I don't know that I think protesting at the Republican convention is a very intelligent way of getting a better contract," he said.
Grrrrr......

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More Agents Track Castro Than Bin Laden
The Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists told Congress that at the end of last year it had just four full-time employees dedicated to investigating Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's wealth while nearly two dozen were working on Cuban embargo violations.

In addition, the Office of Foreign Assets Control said that between 1990 and 2003 it opened just 93 enforcement investigations related to terrorism and collected just $9,425 in fines for terrorism financing violations since 1994.
Because if the Cuban exile community doesn't vote Republican, the terrorists win?

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Pentagon rule would bar contractors from carrying guns in Iraq
As the insurgency and violence in Iraq intensify, the Department of Defense has proposed a new rule for most of the estimated 70,000 civilian contractors working in the war-torn region: They can't carry guns.

At the same time, a top Defense Department official this week acknowledged publicly for the first time that the war effort was suffering a "brain drain" of civilian workers who were fleeing Iraq because they didn't feel safe.
I wonder if that includes Paul Bremer's civilian security guards?

Granted, the civilian contractors aren't as well-trained as military personnel, but I wouldn't bet on people lining up to go into Iraq without at least a sidearm.

Strange logic - Civilian workers fleeing Iraq because they don't feel safe. Therefore, forbid them from carrying guns.

Maybe someone can teach them the Vulcan neck-pinch?

Which will certainly put the stretched-thin military in trouble, leaving the Pentagon scratching for replacements -
Besides security, the Pentagon is relying more on contractors to fill other traditional military roles, such as providing troops with food and housing, and training Iraqi police. National security analysts say the military is stretched thin and does not have enough troops to do all the jobs.

Part of the motivation is political, as well, said Mark Burgess of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information. Using contractors keeps down the casualty counts of U.S. troops, and there is usually less outcry after violence.
The ideal solution? Send in the (unarmed) Chickenhawk Brigade.

Okay, teach them the neck-pinch. And maybe how to use a slingshot.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

So much for the Bush man-on-Mars program

Sex, the final frontier: Nasa acts to ensure that astronauts don't follow their urges
Nasa is talking about the chemical sterilisation of astronauts on longer journeys," Dr Armstrong said, in a talk discussing the problems humanity may face in trying to reach the planets and, eventually, the stars..
What will the right-to-life folks say?


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Divorce forces sale

Just in case you haven't seen it yet, or nobody has forwarded it to you, or maybe you don't have any friends to forward silly stuff to you -

Divorce forces sale

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Thank you, Senator Lautenberg!
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg on Wednesday called Vice President Dick Cheney "the lead chickenhawk" against Sen. John Kerry and criticized other Republicans for questioning the Democratic presidential contender's military credentials.

But Sen. John McCain, a decorated war hero and former prisoner of war, scolded Lautenberg for attacking the Bush administration during the Iraq conflict and said it was time to "declare that the Vietnam War is over."

In a scathing speech on the Senate floor, Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, said that he did not think politicians should be judged by whether they had military service but added that "when those who didn't serve attack the heroism of those who did, I find it particularly offensive."
Lautenberg, incidentally, served in the Army Signal Corp in Europe during WWII.

Senator McCain is correct in one respect - it IS time to declare the Vietnam war over. It was well past time to declare it over back in 2000 - when the Bush campaign insinuated that McCain's captivity had unhinged his mind.

In his remarks, the 'unhinged' McCain said -
"At least could we declare that the Vietnam War is over and have a cease-fire and agree that both candidates -- the president of the United States and Sen. Kerry served honorably -- end of story? Now let's focus our attention on the conflict that's taking place in Iraq, that is taking American lives as I speak on this floor."
Noice the "we". McCain has got to be as disgusted with the White House crew as anyone.

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