Saturday, January 17, 2009

Una vez más

Да, мы можем.



Oui, on peut.


Sí, se puede.





Yes, my fellow Americans.

We can.

Power to the People!

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


--the BB

A fair trial in a valid court of law


It is not controversial nor is it unpatriotic to say that anyone our government is accusing of a crime deserves a fair trial in a valid court of law, and that the American justice system is capable not only of conducting those trials, but also of meting out justice to any who might be convicted. There really is no valid excuse, political or otherwise, to not close Guantanamo and end military commissions immediately.

--mcjoan

To which I say, Amen!
--the BB

May we have a better patriotism, please?

Thanks to Susan Russell at An Inch at a Time, I wish to share this patriotic music video with you.



It seems Norman Lear has launched the Born Again American movement (web site here).

I signed the pledge:

--the BB

Worth it?

If you ever find yourself wondering whether the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been worth it, just remember the Dick Cheney thinks so. Billmon provides links and clues as to why he might think that.

--the BB

Well, that sums up a lot of it

Here is a 9:27-minute retrospective of the Bush years, compiled mostly by segment producer Jonathan Larsen and delivered by Keith Olbermann:



h/t to thereisnospoon. You may read the transcript here.

639




01/15/09 :
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
Spc. Keith E. Essary, 20, of Dyersburg, Tenn....died Jan. 8 in Maywand, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when their dismounted patrol was hit by an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment...

01/15/09 :
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
Sgt. Joshua L. Rath, 22, of Decatur, Ala...died Jan. 8 in Maywand, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when their dismounted patrol was hit by an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment...

01/15/09 :
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
Spc. Jason R. Parsons, 24, of Lenoir, N.C...died Jan. 9 in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Jaldak.

01/15/09 :
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
Spc. Joseph M. Hernandez, 24, of Hammond, Ind...died Jan. 9 in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Jaldak.

01/15/09 :
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
Maj. Brian M. Mescall, 33, of Hopkinton, Mass...died Jan. 9 in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle in Jaldak.

01/15/09 :
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
Lance Cpl. Daniel R. Bennett, 23, of Clifton, Va., died Jan. 11 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force...

4227 - updated with photo



01/16/09
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

Sgt. Marquis R. Porter, 28, of Brighton, Mass., died Jan. 11 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force...

UPDATE:
William Jackson, one of Porter’s four older siblings told the Boston Herald, “ He was a very friendly....loving person and a nice guy who did anything for anyone. His dream was to be a Marine.”

Sgt. Porter grew up in the Fidelis Way projects of Brighton, MA according to the Herald. He graduated from the private college preparatory Beaver Country Day School and joined the Marines in 1998. He had already served two tours in Iraq and in Japan at the time of his death.


He would have been 29 on January 16. (Additional information from IGTNT)

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Glad to see him go


Juan Cole has numerous choice words as Bush prepares to depart:
... W. was just another spoiled rich kid who refused to grow up and threw up on the shoes of the rest of us while singing the praises of brutal militarism and unrestrained capitalism.

...

W. is a frightful combination of ignorant, dull, and pigheaded when to succeed in the Middle East he needed to be well-informed, bright and intellectually agile.

Those were my stomping grounds; I knew them the way W. knows Houston. But when I objected to his policies at this little weblog, my mailbox was flooded with hate mail from people who thought W. knew best about the Middle East. As if you could get experience, knowledge and wisdom about the world from 20 years of bar hopping in Texas. Did the man even have a passport?
It is a rather wonderful, if dispiriting, tour of the Bush legacy. I believe we need to lay these word to heart.
We have the opportunity now, to choose truth over propaganda, responsibility over recklessness, compassion over brutality, altruism over self-interest, and ability over incompetence. We have the opportunity to repudiate the past 8 years, and to transcend them once and for all, to redeem ourselves as a nation.
Savor the writing by reading the whole thing here.

--the BB

One of my other long-time pet topics


No, I have not posted on FISA for quite a while, but that doesn't mean the issue has vanished. Au contraire, mes amis, where opportunity exists Bush crime will thrive - especially when we are unaware or not paying attention.

Mcjoan (yes, I am a huge fan of hers) also has a post up titled "A Case Study in 8 Years of Lying and Ignorance." She begins with a great quote from Glenn Greenwald (from whom she took the post title):
Ever since The New York Times, on December 16, 2005, first reported that President Bush ordered spying on Americans without the warrants required by FISA, the clear illegality that was unveiled -- FISA said that X was a felony and Bush admitted to doing X -- was continuously obscured by a combination of deceit on the part of Bush followers and ignorance, sloth and confusion on the part of the media.
[Emphasis in the original]

There you have it, stripped of all the obscuring verbiage. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act proscribed certain activities that George W. Bush admits doing.

Read my lips: Bush. Broke. The. Law.

What part of "Bush broke the law" seems hard to grasp?

The true believers (kool-aid drinkers) and Village pundits are working hard to say that the recent FISA Court of Review decision vindicates Bush, which is simply not true. It addressed the authority of Congress to pass certain laws that might contravene the Fourth Amendment. It did not address real or potential criminality in the White House.

So don't let the Bush apologists (whether conscious apologists or enabling twits) sell you some bill of goods. Glenn Greenwald, Mcjoan, and I are trying to whack this misconception down before it becomes received wisdom.

As Greenwald writes:
The ruling had nothing whatsoever to do with the central question at the heart of the NSA controversy: namely, whether Bush committed felonies by ordering warrantless eavesdropping in the face of a Congressional statute that explicitly made such eavesdropping a felony.
Did I mention that Bush is a self-admitted felon?

And should have been impeached.

Good.


--the BB

Get it up quickly!

This is the official White House photo of soon-to-be President Obama (courtesy of Americablog).

I am so looking forward to seeing it in the lobby at work (I am a contractor for a government agency). In my off-and-on career there (since 2005) I have had to deal with Bush's face in the lobby. Given the setting, I have managed - so far - not to scream or flip off the portrait of Bush, though mostly I avoid walking past it.

But oh, it will be sweet to see this in the lobby instead.

I hope this is one instance when government bureaucracy is swift and efficient. If I walk past a photo of Bush on January 21, I might utter something I really shouldn't.

--the BB

Finally


Something you would never hear uttered by any Bushie:

"Waterboarding is torture."

Those words were uttered by Eric Holder in his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

We've known it all along. It has always been considered torture. We tried and executed Japanese for doing it.

And we know it has been done in our name, sanctioned at the highest levels (i.e., by George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney).

Every time Dubya or Condi has said "the United States does not torture" I have wanted to scream to the high heavens, "The fuck we don't, you criminals!"

For contrast with nominee Holder, consider the confirmation hearings of Mealymouth Michael Mukasey, the current pathetic excuse for an Attorney General who could not bring himself to acknowledge that waterboarding is torture. As summarized at the NYT on All Saints' Day 2007:
Mr. Mukasey has adamantly refused to declare waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning, illegal. In doing so, he has been steering clear of a potential legal quagmire for the Bush administration: criminal prosecution or lawsuits against Central Intelligence Agency officers who used the harsh interrogation practice and those who authorized it, legal experts say.
I hasten to underscore "those who authorized it."

Back on 21 December 2004 The New Standard had an article noting this:
Dec. 21, 2004 – Repeated references in an internal FBI email suggest that the president issued a special order to permit some of the more objectionable torture techniques used at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prison facilities around Iraq. The email was among a new batch of FBI documents revealed by civil rights advocates on Monday. Other documents describe the initiation of investigations into alleged incidents of torture and rape at detention facilities in Iraq.

The email, which was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, represents the first hard evidence directly connecting the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal and the White House. The author of the email, whose name is blanked out but whose title is described as "On Scene Commander -- Baghdad," contains ten explicit mentions of an "Executive Order" that the author said mandated US military personnel to engage in extraordinary interrogation tactics.

...

The specific methods mentioned in the email as having been approved by the unnamed Executive Order and witnessed by FBI agents include sleep deprivation, placing hoods over prisoners? heads, the use of loud music for sensory overload, stripping detainees naked, forcing captives to stand in so-called "stress positions," and the employment of work dogs. One of the more horrifying tools of intimidation, Army canines were used at the prison to terrorize inmates, as depicted in photos taken inside Abu Ghraib.
All that is bad enough, but waterboarding? Let's go to the horse's ... mouth:



"I asked, 'What tools are available for us to gain information from him?'"

So the Decider Guy all but says, "I authorized torture." It's really not very subtle and it sounds as though he is daring the world to do anything about it. After all, he got "legal opinions."

[There is an especially nasty ring of the Inferno reserved for Yoo and Bybee and their ilk.]

As for the results from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, David Rose reported in Vanity Fair (16 December 2008 web edition):
As for K.S.M. himself, who (as Jane Mayer writes) was waterboarded, reportedly hung for hours on end from his wrists, beaten, and subjected to other agonies for weeks, Bush said he provided “many details of other plots to kill innocent Americans.” K.S.M. was certainly knowledgeable. It would be surprising if he gave up nothing of value. But according to a former senior C.I.A. official, who read all the interrogation reports on K.S.M., “90 percent of it was total fucking bullshit.” A former Pentagon analyst adds: “K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.”
Jonathan S. Landay wrote this for a McClatchy Newspapers article that appeared in The Olympian on 4 January 2009:
WASHINGTON—Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.


"Good programs." "Sound decisions."

An angel of light.

By contrast, let's return to the confirmation hearing of Eric Holder:
"No one is above the law," Holder said, "and we will follow the evidence, the facts, the law, and let that take us where we should."


Mcjoan, my ever reliable source on torture updates, comments at Daily Kos:
And while that sounds promising, Holder also said he didn't want to "criminalize policy differences," which would run contrary to the pledge to follow the law, wherever it leads. After all, if waterboarding is torture and the Bush administration admits that they used waterboarding, we clearly aren't talking about mere policy differences. Time will tell.
You knew I was not going to let this topic go, no matter how infrequently I post these days.


Yes, given the opportunity I would gleefully dance on Bush's grave. Not that you doubted it. And I don't think a 2x4 upside the head is uncalled for in the case of those who have enabled this narcissistic sociopath in his reign of destruction. If you voted for him in either election and see me walking down the street with a big piece of wood, avoid me. Some are feeling charitable as he leaves office and I am not among them.

Frankly, I did not think we would get this far without attacking Iran. There are a few days left but it is highly unlikely at this point. I am very relieved to admit I was wrong.

--the BB

Wonderful news


I just got an e-mail from my friend JoAnne.
Dear Friends,

I just hung up from the chair of the search committee proclaiming by unanimous vote of the vestry an invitation to become the new rector of ____. I'm so excited and scared at the same time.... Please pray for me because I need it on all levels.

With Love,
JoAnne
With great joy let us hold her and the people before God.

JoAnne did her field ed at St Cuddy's while in seminary and became a dear friend. She is also an artist and I have a lovely painting by her of a female nude in my living room. She is a person of great heart and dedication. Her life in the church has had the challenges, heartbreak, and frustration that many vicars know - and yet she has the most resilient joy and trust in God.

May heaven open and pour every blessing upon her and the congregation with whom she will minister.
--the BB

Heart thread - 01/16/2009


David@Montreal has forwarded a prayer request for Pastor Tanzil Zafar:
LONDON (Religious Intelligence) - The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) www.persecution.org is reporting that a young Anglican priest who was kidnapped on Friday evening by unidentified men was found badly injured near the gate of Saint John's Cathedral Church on Sunday night in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Pastor Tanzil Zafar, a 28-year-old pastor of the Church of Pakistan and father of two children, is being treated at Mission Hospital Peshawar. Munawar Rumalshah, the Anglican Bishop of Peshawar diocese, said, "He was badly traumatized and his body was swollen when we found him near the Cathedral gate."
Almighty God. we hold Tanzil before you and beseech you to uphold him and fill him with your grace, that he may know the healing power of your love. Guide and direct those who minister to him and sustain your faithful servants during times of danger and uncertainty. Amen.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another thing that perhaps has not changed


I don't know where it came in y'all's education but you probably had some point where the school had you take all kinds of aptitude and interest tests and ran you through some exercises to explore potential vocations. For us it was in the ninth grade.

Whether I can do anything or not, I am terrific at taking most tests, so my aptitude for damn near anything seemed evident. Inclination was another matter altogether. I think I was in the 99th percentile for mechanical aptitude and I distinctly remember being in the 1st percentile for mechanical interest. In other words, 99% of the population is more interested in mechanical relationships than I am, though only 1% conceptualizes mechanical relationships more easily. The contrast could hardly be greater. I could grasp how things worked in the purely physical realm but it really did not make my juices flow. Time has mellowed this. I remain as disinterested as ever, for the most part, but I don't even track it much either.

You do not want me to repair anything in your house, your vehicle, or anywhere else. Almost all the men in my family are "handy" but I decidedly am not.

Anyway, the career I pondered as I neared my fifteenth birthday was the law. My teachers thought this was a good idea because I was constantly arguing with them and usually won. If it was about ideas and logic and persuasion, you could count me in.

I loved Latin phrases too--and still do--so I know that de minimis is NOT spelled "de minimus," no matter how it is pronounced in common parlance, and I know this because I understand it. De minimis non curat lex. The law does not concern itself with minimal matters. Or, in the vulgar tongue, "Don't waste the court's time arguing over mouse turds."

In accountancy we call that the principle of materiality. There may be minor errors in the books but we are only concerned with material errors that make a difference worth fretting about.

A couple of items came together today that led me to reflect on the vocational unit in the 9th grade.

At work someone called about making selections that included alphanumeric combinations that looked to me like legal references. When USC does not refer to the University of Southern California (ugh! Go Bruins!), it must mean the US Code. At least that was my instinct. And the instinct was right. In between answering phone calls I looked up the three codes involved, taking advantage of the Cornell University law sources online (to which I made a donation last year because I use it as a reference for this blog).

Then tonight, as I looked over the news and my posts on findings in various courts and my passion for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the rule of law - equally and impartially applied - well, it seems that a certain passion has perdured over almost half a century. It is mostly peripheral, but it is there.

So this post is about pausing to consider one more theme in the longer trajectory of my life.

IANAL is an online acronym for "I am not a lawyer," usually prefacing an observation with this disclaimer to learned knowledge of the law and how it is, or ought to be, applied. So my ramblings here must always be taken in the light that IANAL. But as a a citizen with no legal training, I find the law - especially its larger principles - fascinating. It is a means for seeking and applying justice with some impartiality, a tool to move us from the whims of the powerful to social equity. I think that's a good thing.

Oh, and in the summer following that academic year, God shook up my world and set me on a very different path. But that is another story and this late night ramble has gone on long enough.

Sleep well, kittens.
--the BB

The US military tortured - Judge Crawford


THE official in charge of the military commission process at Guantanamo Bay has become the first senior Bush Administration figure to publicly admit that a detainee was tortured.

Judge Susan Crawford, who was in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees — beginning with Australian David Hicks — to trial, has concluded that the US military tortured a Saudi Arabian who allegedly planned to take part in the September 11, 2001, attacks.
--The Age cited in article by SilentPatriot at Crooks and Liars

This came out in an interview Bob Woodward had with Judge Crawford. It is good to see such revelations / confirmations coming out just as Bush leaves office, lest some folks forget the great evils he has perpetrated.

Mcjoan, who has followed the torture issue for a long time and often been a main source of information for me, notes that "a former military prosecutor filed a declaration in federal court yesterday in support of a petition on behalf of one of the Gitmo detainees who was just a teenager when first captured and held."

The whole sorry history of torture by the United States is incredibly tragic. It has tainted all testimony and consequent trials, trashed our international reputation, and pretty much done sod-all for security - Richard Bruce Cheney's allegations to the contrary notwithstanding. It is a grave moral failure.

Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) has indicated that although Obama may not be in a position to prosecute the crimes of the Bush regime, "...I think we in Congress have an independent responsibility, and I fully intend to discharge that responsibility." (Think Progress, cited by markthshark at Daily Kos)

We shall see what eventuates. In the meantime, if you can support Congress to hold Bush accountable, please do so.

One last time, because the thought, however vain, never ceased to delight me:



--the BB

The results of inbreeding

Twittus insularis

Glenn Greenwald penned a couple of righteous paragraphs today anent the clamor in the Village that prosecutions not take place.
The word "liberal" has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last eight years. All that has been necessary to qualify is a belief in such radical, exotic and fringe-leftist concepts as search warrants before the Government can eavesdrop on our communications; due process before the state can encage people for life; adherence to decades-old Geneva Conventions restrictions which post-World-War-II America led the way in implementing; and the need for an actual, imminent threat from another country before we bomb, invade, occupy and destroy it.

Now added to the pantheon of "liberal" dogma is the shrill, ideological belief that high government officials must abide by our laws and should be treated like any other citizen when they break them. To believe that now makes you not just a "liberal," but worse: a "liberal score-settler." Apparently, one can attain the glorious status of being a moderate, a centrist, a high-minded independent only if one believes that high political officials (and our most powerful industries, such as the telecoms) should be able to break numerous laws (i.e.: commit felonies), openly admit that they've done so, and then be immunized from all consequences. That's how our ideological spectrum is now defined.
Put me down as shrill, OK?

And don't forget to add "liberal score-settler" whenever you speak of me.

I can deal with that.

[For those new to national political discussion, "the Village" refers to the insular inside-the-Beltway world of Washington, DC, pundits whose social and intellectual lives are closely intertwined (and inbred), who consider themselves experts on all things and are frequently, and egregiously, wrong. But that doesn't matter as they agree among themselves.]
--the BB

We've got yer legacy right here


Dday reminds us (at Digby's Hullabaloo) that Bush's real legacy is the Supreme Court, then goes on to discuss how "[T]he Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that evidence obtained from an unlawful arrest based on careless record keeping by the police may be used against a criminal defendant."

Dday explains:
The case itself is noteworthy. Bernie Herring had an adversarial history with a cop in his Alabama town. His truck was impounded and he went to the sheriff's office to pick it up. The cop ran a check for outstanding warrants and found what he thought to be one, he arrested Herring. The officers detained Herring, and found a gun and traces of methamphetamines on him. Minutes later, the officers discovered that the arrest warrant was faulty. Nevertheless, he was tried for drug possession and sentenced to 27 months(!).

And the Supreme Court now has ruled that the evidence, gained through what amounts to a warrantless search, is admissable.
And reminds us:
That right-wing bloc on the Court is relatively young, incidentally. Weep not for George W. Bush. He's got a legacy. Not content just to screw us for eight years, the pain will be felt for decades.
So there's yer legacy for ya, my friends.

Just to refresh your memory on what is at stake:
Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Regime change comes not a moment too soon. We're not even certain yet that it has come soon enough.

Deus, in adjuvandum nos festina!

[This post marks a recurrence of Thursday Constitution Blogging.]
--the BB

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Hidden Reasons to Straighten Myself Out


Peterson Toscano explains why he tried to go ex-gay.




h/t to Towleroad who got it from Truth Wins Out
--the BB

Military Commissions

From Wikipedia:
The United States Military Commissions Act of 2006, also known as HR-6166, was an Act of Congress, signed by President George W. Bush on October 17, 2006. Drafted in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Act's stated purpose was "To authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war, and for other purposes."

Following the filing of Al Odah v. United States, section 7 of the MCA was found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on June 12, 2008.
Air Force Major David Frakt, defense counsel with the Office of Military Commissions, had some comments to make while chatting with Rachel Maddow.

video

A key quote:
My belief, I believe it is shared by my fellow co-counsel, is that this is an unfair, rigged system.
Well, there you have it.

Things go downhill rather quickly when people in power start ignoring the law.

h/t to Crooks and Liars



--the BB

Crimes agains humanity - updated with video


A doctor from Johns Hopkins University I interviewed for the story says that the scale of death and human suffering may be greater than Cambodia under Pol Pot, and that international inaction is reminiscent of the the neglect of the Rwandan genocide


You may read more at Episcopal Cafe.

The people of Zimbabwe need deliverance from a power-hungry madman. The world dithers.

UPDATE:
Crooks and Liars has a post on this by Cernig.

Physicians for Human Rights report:
PHR found that the Mugabe government has withheld food aid, seed, and fertilizer to rural provinces in order to starve political opponents; that the regime nationalized and then withheld routine support for municipal water and sewer systems from cities that elected political opponents; that the health care infrastructure and the economy itself is nearing utter collapse; corruption is the rule not the exception; and that the regime brutally silences critics to cover its crimes, profound corruption and incompetence (see report here).


A Sky News video report:



--the BB

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When organized religion is your friend


Religious leaders, faith organizations file lawsuit
to invalidate Prop 8

[Press Release from California Council of Churches]

Today, the California Council of Churches and other religious leaders and faith organizations representing millions of members filed a petition with the California Supreme Court asking the to invalidate Proposition 8. The petition argues that Proposition 8 poses a severe threat to the guarantee of equal protection for all and was not enacted through the constitutionally required process for such a dramatic change to the California Constitution.

The petition is filed on behalf of the California Council of Churches, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, two Episocopal bishops (of California and Los Angeles), the Progressive Jewish Alliance, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California, and the Northern and Southern California Nevada Conferences of the United Church of Christ. The groups are represented by Eric Isaacson, based in San Diego, and by Jon B. Eisenberg of Eisenberg and Hancock, LLP, based in Oakland.

"Proposition 8 poses a grave threat to religious freedom," said Rev. Rick Schlosser, executive director of the California Council of Churches. "If the Court permits gay men and lesbians to be deprived of equal protection by a simple amjority vote, religious minorities could be denied equal protection as well -- a terrible irony in a nation founded by people who emigrated to escape religious persecution. If the Court permits Proposition 8 to take effect, religious discrimination similarly could be written into California's Consitution."

For a copy of the brief, visit www.calchurches.org/marriage.

--reproduced in toto from Diobytes, the online newsletter of the Episcopal Diocese of California

Thought y'all might like to know. Nice to see my bishop in there.
--the BB

4226 - updated with name and photo


From the Associated Press:
As of Monday, Jan. 12, 2009, at least 4,226 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The figure includes eight military civilians killed in action. At least 3,403 military personnel died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is one fewer than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Monday at 10 a.m. EST.

The British military has reported 178 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia and Georgia, three each; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand and Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan and South Korea, one death each.

Latest Coalition Fatalities

01/12/09
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Staff Sgt. Justin L. Bauer, 24, of Loveland, Colo., died Jan. 10 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment...

01/12/09 MNF:
MNF-W Marine dies in non-combat related incident
A Multi-National Force – West Marine died as the result of a non-combat related incident here Jan. 11. The Marine’s name is being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin and release by the Department of Defense.


[Source]

01/12/09 MNF:
Soldier dies from non-combat related injury [updated]

Pvt. Sean P. McCune, 20, of Euless, Texas, died Jan. 11 in Samarra, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

[Information: DOD. Photo: IGTNT]


Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The discussion needs to continue

Mad Priest pointed to an article by Kelly Jean Cogswell at Gay City wherein Rick Warren's efforts in Africa around HIV/AIDS is discussed, along the lines of what has already been made public by Max Blumenthal (cf. my earlier post).
In case you actually care, his campaign for AIDS prevention, in a region decimated by the disease, sneers at condoms, needle exchange, and sex education. He claims all those efforts merely slow the spread of AIDS, while his plan can stop it flat. The secret - abstinence before marriage, religious conversion, and, not included on his website, that perennial favorite, queer-baiting.

One of his closest allies in Uganda in his so-called fight against AIDS is Martin Ssempa, an evangelical preacher who blames queers for the disease, makes a show of burning condoms, and this spring organized a rally with the theme "A Call for Action on Behalf of the Victims of Homosexuality," where he spent most of his time railing against queers.

As far as treatment goes, Ssempsa offers faith healing in his Pentecostal services if only victims believe enough and make a nice donation. In general, the bulk of his anti-AIDS activism seems to be legal battles to ensure that homosexuality remains illegal and the media continues to portray queers as sexual predators.

He's getting it done. Homosexuality is still illegal, and queers face increasing harassment and violence from everyone from the government to their next-door neighbors. Newspapers sometimes print lists of people suspected of being lesbian or gay, opening them up to job loss and physical violence. Several activists are arrested every year.

You may read it all here. Warren is chummy with Archbishops Orombi and Akinola and is now offering welcome to the queer-terrified neo-Donatists who have "gone out from among us."

As far as the inauguration goes, the pain and anger are real but I do not expect anything to change and I do not favor boycotting a day of such hope for change, even if it has this nasty glitch in it.

What I do hope for is an unmasking of Rick Warren.

I want him unmasked for the manipulative, oppressive person that he is. I want the public at large to know that his work in Africa centers on an approach that (1) actually increases AIDS risk and incidence, and thus increases the death rate, (2) spreads hate, and (3) fosters oppressive laws. Folks should be applauding this?

As far as I am concerned the "he's actually doing good work in Africa" routine simply does not hold water. He is putting his money where his mouth is, and that is the problem.

Here is what happens:
In 1986, Uganda's President " launched an ambitious HIV prevention campaign, which included massive condom distribution, explicit information about transmission, and messages about delaying sex and reducing numbers of partners. HIV rates dropped from 15 percent in the early 1990s to 5 percent in 2001."

Then Christian activists got involved and Uganda's success took a sharp turnaround. New HIV infections nearly doubled between 2003 and 2005.
...
"Uganda's new morality-based approach has unleashed a wave of stigma against condom use, because now, if you ask for a condom, it must mean you have failed to abstain or be faithful."

It didn't stop people from having sex. It just stopped them from using condoms.
[Becky at Preemptive Karma]
And the US government has a huge hand in this:
The Lancet, a British medical journal, recently attributed Uganda's surge in new infections to the condom shortage and the Musevenis' campaign to remove the "C" [condoms] from ABC. "There is no question in my mind," said Stephen Lewis, the U.N.'s Africa envoy, 10 months into the shortage, "that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven and exacerbated by the extreme policies that the administration in the United States is now pursuing in the emphasis on abstinence."
[Esther Kaplan, contributing editor at POZ, the national AIDS magazine, via Peace Earth & Justice News]



--the BB

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Challenging

Nonny Mouse posted this at Crooks and Liars, commenting:
This video was created for the AARP U@50 video contest and placed second. It is based on the Argentinian Political Advertisement "The Truth" by RECREAR. Apparently, when it was shown, it got a rousing standing ovation and cheers. (h/t Aunt Ruthie)


Enjoy.



--the BB

A philosophy that is compassionate and decent


"It's very important for our party not to narrow its focus, not to become so inward looking that we drive people away from a philosophy that is compassionate and decent," said Bush, probably the most narcissistic occupier of the White House in history.

Text in bold and red is mine, the rest came from David Sunday's post at Crooks and Liars.

That creature would not know compassionate if it walked up and bit his nose off. And what he has done to the political structure of this nation, and to the safety and health of the American people, and to the environment, and to the world at large all combines into gross indecency.

His "compassion," if it exists, is limited to his cronies. He takes very good care of them and bugger the rest of us.

Less than 7 days and 22 hours and not soon enough.
--the BB

Torture. It's just wrong.


David Swanson of After Downing Street presents the results of a new report. Here are his opening paragraphs:
REPORT NAMES 30 BUSH OFFICIALS COMPLICIT IN TORTURE

President Bush and his aides repeatedly ignored warnings that their torture plans were illegal from high State Department officials as well as the nation’s top uniformed legal officers, the Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, a new published report states.

"These warnings of illegality and immorality given by knowledgeable and experienced (government) persons were ignored by the small group of high Executive officers who were determined that America would torture and abuse its prisoners and who had the decision-making power to secretly require this to be done," said Lawrence Velvel, chairman of the "Steering Committee of the Justice Robert H. Jackson Conference On Planning For The Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals." Velvel is a noted reformer in the field of American legal education.
[Emphasis mine]

Note well that serious voices from multiple governmental agencies and the military all warned against using torture.

And the Bush Crime Regime forged ahead on their illegal, immoral, and counterproductive course.

Among the objections:
# William Howard Taft IV, the Legal Advisor to the State Department whose 40-page memo of January 11, 2002 warned Bush’s claim the Geneva Conventions were not applicable to prisoners held by the U.S. could subject Bush to prosecution for war crimes. State Department lawyer David Bowker further warned "there is no such thing" as a person that is not covered by the Geneva Conventions. # The Defense Department’s own Criminal Investigative Task Force headed by Col. Brittain Mallow warned Haynes that tactics used at Guantanamo could be illegal. His warning were ignored by Haynes, whose position was based on statements of Yoo and Chertoff. # FBI Director Robert Mueller barred FBI agents from participating in coercive CIA interrogations, "a warning-fact well known to many in the Executive," the Steering Committee Report said. Also, Marion Bowman, head of the FBI’s national security law section in Washington called lawyers in Jim Haynes’ office in the Pentagon to express his concern but said he never heard back. # David Brant, head of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service learned about the torture and abuse at Guantanamo and took the position that "it just ain’t right" and expressed his concern to Army officials in command authority over military interrogators at Guantanamo but "they did not care," the Report said. # A senior CIA intelligence analyst that visited Guantanamo in 2002 reported back that the U.S. was committing war crimes there and that one-third of the detainees had no connection to terrorism. The report alarmed Rice’s lawyer John Bellinger and National Security Council terrorism expert General John Gordon but their concerns were "flatly rejected and ignored" by Addington, Flanigan and Gonzales, as well as by Rumsfeld’s office. # Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora carried his concern over Guantanamo torture to Haynes and to Mary Walker, head of a Pentagon working group that was drafting a DOD memo based on Yoo’s work that authorized torture. Mora said what was occurring at Guantanamo was "at a minimum cruel and unusual treatment, and, at worst, torture." His warning was ignored.
Velvel has more to say:
"If Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and others are not prosecuted," Velvel said, "the future could be threatened by additional examples of Executive lawlessness by leaders who need fear no personal consequences for their actions, including more illegal wars such as Iraq."
[Emphasis mine once again]

Well, yes.

Those who have been paying attention realize that the rule of law has been repeatedly flouted and seriously threatened. My own not so humble opinion is that until the Bush administration crimes are publicly dealt with we cannot, at this time, claim to be a nation of law or that the United States Constitution still means anything enforceable.

And I am passionate about the Constitution.
--the BB

637



01/09/09 Reuters:
Bombs kill 3 U.S. troops and 12 Afghans (UPDATE)
A bomb killed three U.S. soldiers in southern Afghanistan Friday, hours after a suicide bomber killed 10 Afghan civilians and two Afghan policemen in a separate attack in the south, officials said.

01/10/09 wsfa:
Decatur Soldier Killed in Afghanistan
An Alabama soldier dies in Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Josh Rath, 22 years old of Decatur, died this week. Rath's family tells our sister station WAFF in Huntsville, their son died when a bomb went off at an open bazaar.

4224


Latest Coalition Fatalities

01/11/09 MNF:
US Soldier killed by IED
A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier died when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle in eastern Baghdad at approximately 8 p.m. Jan. 10. The Soldier’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Staying in touch


Y'all know of my support for Martin Heinrich in the last election and that he won in the exciting "blue sweep" of New Mexico.

I can't really cheer his campaign and ante up a few hundred dollars for it and not keep in touch, now can I?

So I wrote:

Dear Rep. Heinrich:

First, I wish to congratulate you on your election. I was very happy to meet you the Saturday before the election in the SW ABQ headquarters near my home, and very pleased to have been part of your campaign through my donations. It is a cause of happiness and pride to see a progressive Dem in the NM-01 seat.

I am writing to inquire whether you have considered Rep. Conyers' bill HR104 (Draft Bill To Create Commission To Investigate Bush-Era Crimes 01-06-2008 ). I strongly believe that without some sort of Truth and Reconciliation efforts that we will not be able to move into the future. Like the incomplete responses to the Watergate-era crimes, granting free passes now (whether pardons or simply tossing crime into the memory hole) will only return to bite the American People in a place where we would rather not be bitten.

I realize that as a new member of Congress it would be uncomfortable for you to go where the House leadership is unwilling to go but this is one New Mexican who would like to feel proud of Congress once again, and there is lots of reparative work to be done before I can.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter. I will stay in touch.
Elena Schor writes about Conyer's bill at TPM:
It happens more often than you might think on Capitol Hill: a new bill is announced by a congressional office, with little fanfare and fewer co-sponsors than it deserves but a purpose so abundantly sensible that the plan cries out for more attention.

Such is the case with H.R. 104, a bill introduced on Tuesday by House judiciary committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and nine other lawmakers. The measure would set up a National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties, with subpoena power and a reported budget of around $3 million, to investigate issues ranging from detainee treatment to waterboarding to extraordinary rendition. The panel's members would hail from outside the government and be appointed by the president and congressional leaders of both parties.

Sounds like a great idea. In fact, it sounds a lot like Senate armed services committee chairman Carl Levin's (D-MI) proposed interrogation-policy commission that has been kicking around since 2005. So why does such a good bill only have 10 co-sponsors?
You can bet that Pelosi and Hoyer aren't going anywhere near this one.

I should hope the American People will rise up and force their representatives to act on this.

And I know that is a fond hope, but I am a foolish fond old man.
--the BB

You won't learn this on cable news


Episcopal Cafe has a distressing and informative post by Anne Fontaine that shares some of what is going on in Zimbabwe these days. As you know, when something does not fit into the current "news cycle" it fades from public awareness. Zimbabwe is not Gaza or the transition in US administrations or a celebrity misadventure, so we hear nothing about it in the papers or on television.

From Anglican-Information we learn about tidbits such as this:
All eighteen turned out to have been in the hands of state agents during the time they were missing and all have sworn affidavits describing their torture during the period they were illegally held. These have been corroborated by medical evidence. Even the two year old was beaten with his mother.

...

To all the women in Zimbabwe: "Women have figured more prominently in the resistance over the past 10 years and have become increasingly visible. Often they face the police with the bearing and confidence of mothers, grandmothers and older women who deserve traditional respect."

...

The UN Children's Fund [UNICEF] recently stated that school attendance in Zimbabwe has been dropping at an alarming rate [from more than 85 percent in 2007 to just 20 percent by the third term of 2008] because of the collapse of the country's socio-economic system, affecting students and teachers alike, and that few children in Zimbabwe will be returning to class when schools re-open.

So here is a quick round-up for our readers:
S.Africa's Tutu calls for fast in solidarity with Zimbabwe
Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu called Sunday on his fellow South Africans to stage solidarity fasts to support the people of Zimbabwe, who are struggling with poverty and drought.

Tutu, who as archbishop of Cape Town in the 1980s and 1990s waged an outspoken campaign against his country's apartheid regime, called on South Africans to express their solidarity with their northern neighbours.

"If you could have more people saying I'll fast maybe one day a week just to identify myself with my sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe," Tutu, who himself fasts once a week, said on South African radio 702.

International rights group Civicus -- the World Alliance for Citizen Participation -- said it planned to launch a similar campaign within two weeks.

--Africasia.com (1/11/09)


Basildon Peta shares this at Independent Online, South Africa (1/10/09):
Robert Mugabe's wife Grace has allegedly drawn a large sum of foreign exchange from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to bankroll her family holiday in the Far East, despite her country's crippling economic crisis.

At a time when more than 1 700 Zimbabweans have perished from cholera, despite the release of a R300-million relief package from South Africa, authoritative sources say Grace showed no restraint and withdrew US$92 000 (about R890 000) from the central bank to fund her month-long holiday in Malaysia.

The withdrawal comes after Grace's $80 000 shopping spree in Rome in June last year on the sidelines of a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation summit, to which Mugabe was invited.
A charming lady, I'm sure.


AFP reports comments by the current President of South Africa (1/9/09):
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) — Zimbabwe's feuding parties have had a "lackadaisical" attitude toward ending a months-long stalemate, despite a worsening humanitarian crisis, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said Friday.

"The sooner an inclusive government is formed, the sooner there can be concerted efforts by all parties to deal with a massive humanitarian crisis," Motlanthe said in an interview with The Mail and Guardian newspaper.

"But the fact is that the parties there have sometimes had a lackadaisical attitude to these matters," he said.

Nelson Banya reports at Reuters:
HARARE, Jan 8 (Reuters) - A Zimbabwean court on Thursday ordered an investigation into allegations of torture brought against the police by opposition activists charged with plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe.

The seven, including a close aide of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, are charged with plotting insurrection, sabotage, banditry and terrorism. The arrests have added to doubts over chances of a political power-sharing deal.

The activists deny the charges against them and say they were tortured while in police custody. Their lawyers are seeking their release, arguing that they were abducted and not arrested properly.

And how about access to information? The Media Institute of South Africa (Windhoek) reports this (via allAfrica.com on 1/9/09):
The government has gazetted steep new fees under the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). The move will see foreign-based media houses fork out more than US$30,000 in application and permission to operate fees.

Foreign media organisations wishing to establish a representative office in Zimbabwe will pay an application fee of US$10,000 and a further US$20,000 and US$2,000 in permission to operate and permit administration fees, respectively.

Local journalists working for foreign media organisations will pay US$1,000 and US$3,000 in individual application and accreditation fees.

The cholera situation has an update from the WHO (via Xinhua):
HARARE, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) has commended the Zimbabwean government for its efforts to contain the nationwide cholera outbreak, efforts that have led to a steady decline in reported cases and deaths, The Herald reported on Saturday.

Speaking from Geneva, WHO head of the Global Cholera Task Force Dr Claire-Lise Chaignat said there were signs that reported cholera cases along the South African border were also stabilizing.

"We are seeing that the epidemic is now starting to decline, especially when we break down the occurrence of cases by week. We see that, in fact, during the last week, up to January 3, there was quite an important decrease in the number of cases that have been reported from all over Zimbabwe," she said.

As of Thursday, the WHO reported that cholera cases had reached 36,671 with 1,822 deaths countrywide. New outbreaks were recorded in Gokwe South and Chipinge.

Let us pray for the people of Zimbabwe and every land who struggle with disease, oppression, and famine.
--the BB

Shooting ourselves in the foot - updated with videos

Hamid Shalizi reports at Reuters:
KABUL (Reuters) - More than a thousand Afghans signed up on Thursday to say they wanted to go and fight Israel in the Gaza Strip, many of them blaming the United States which has some 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, for supporting the Jewish state.

Accusations by Taliban militants and some Muslim clerics that Israel and its main ally, the United States, aim to destroy Islam have a strong impact on public opinion in Afghanistan, where Washington plans to almost double its troop numbers this year.

...

"The acts of Israel against the innocent Muslims of Gaza are barbaric and inhumane and widely helped by the Americans," Assam said, adding that nearly 10,000 people across Afghanistan had so far volunteered to fight in Gaza.
Drizek's diary on Daily Kos comments on this:
As you may have heard, the US Senate and House yesterday voted nearly unanimously in support of Israels attacks on Gaza, which are responsible for killing of 800 Palestinians and destroying large amounts civilian infrastructure. Israel is using American planes, helicopters and bombs, payed for with American money. As a result, the Muslim world sees the US and Israel as being one and the same and equally responsible for that is happening.
I share with you one of the principles of the just war theory (ideas that go back to Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas, and Grotius) in the words used at Wikipedia:
Proportionality
The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms. This principle is also known as the principle of macro-proportionality, so as to distinguish it from the jus in bello principle of proportionality.
Additionally, once war is launched:
The more disproportional the number of collateral civilian deaths, the more suspect will be the sincerity of a belligerent nation's claim to justness of a war it fights.
Why is US foreign policy so determined to make things worse in both the near and long terms?

Is it completely impossible to support the right of Israel to exist in peace without supporting the extreme right wing of Israeli politics? Does AIPAC have photos of all our congressional reps in compromising situations? [That is not just a snarky comment; have you heard any other explanation why we must always roll over to Likud?]

Acts of Hope has posts on Israeli opposition to the current actions in Gaza here, here, and here. Opposing what is happening right now does not make you anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, or even non-Israeli.

Yes, Hamas is a horrid organization (which, nonetheless, is also one of the few sources of any social services in Palestine, thanks to the situation that has been created - and that is why they got voted in) that is guilty of terrorism. I offer them no support. Hamas retaliation is being used as the excuse for the current attacks, but who started this round? And where is the proportionality?
With three civilian fatalities in hundreds of rocket salvos since Dec. 27, the damage in Israel is less physical than psychological. The current attacks are reminiscent of the Hezbollah missiles during the 2006 war with Lebanon that strained the mettle of residents of northern Israel.
--Joshua Mitnick in Christian Science Monitor, 7 January 2009
Paleo points to a NY TImes article:
Fred Abrahams, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, who has studied both the Kosovo and Lebanon conflicts, said he was concerned that Israel was not paying enough attention to international legal requirements for "distinction and proportionality — first, to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and second, whether an attack will have a disproportionate effect on the civilians in the area."

Even if a target is legitimate, he said, "you can’t drop a 500-pound bomb in an area crowded with civilians."

This was also the first conflict he could remember when civilians could not flee the war zone. Gaza’s borders are shut both to Israel and to Egypt, and civilians, he said, "are fish in a barrel."

. . . .

Human rights groups are also concerned about the Israeli use of white phosphorous, which creates smoke on a battlefield, at low altitudes or crowded areas, because it can burn like a kind of napalm.

The Bush Years. Utter. Disaster.

But even when Bush is gone, Congress will probably do anything AIPAC asks them to.

All lives matter - on all sides.

This horror is not helping.
UPDATE:
I got these from Juan Cole's post today. I commend his entire article to you.



Michael Heart's "Song for Gaza" (We will no go down):



--the BB

Pusillanimous asshats - updated with link & graphic


The Baltimore Sun reports:
Sitting at a conference table in his Capitol office, Rep. Steny Hoyer picked up a Capitol Hill newspaper and draped it in front of his face, like a veil.

"I don't work for Obama," declared the front-page headline, in large black type.

The words came from the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada. But Hoyer of Maryland, the number-two Democrat in the House, wanted to echo the sentiment.

Hoyer told a group of journalists seated around the table that while he's excited to see Barack Obama become president, he hopes that the Democratic Congress will live up to its constitutional duty to check the power of the executive.

Can you believe people like this? What happened? Were their balls returned from Dick Cheney's person-sized vault at the undisclosed location?

NOW they're going to live up to their constitution duty?

Why now and not during the past two presidential terms?

Karl Rove must have photos.

Here's a clue for you, Harry and Steny (and Nancy): You will NEVER redeem your reputation for rolling over for George Bush.

Yes, you should uphold checks and balances, but your utter failure to do so will, and should, haunt you to your graves. Your failure to impeach a sitting president who acknowledged violating the laws of the United States is forgivable in heaven but should NEVER be forgiven politically. It is a form or treason and in the court of my none-too-charitable heart I hold you in contempt of the Constitution.

Frankly, I would like to impeach you for failure to uphold the constitution as your oath requires. Don't think starting now will erase your betrayal of the American People when it really counted.

What part of "you have NO credibility left" is hard to grasp?


Update:
OK, here's my attempt at compromise. If you PUBLICLY AND VIGOROUSLY support every effort to open and hold investigations to bring out the truth of the lawlessness of the Bush Regime and get it all on the record - obtaining the documents and testimony that you allowed them to withhold for so long - and bring accountability back WITHOUT TOSSING IT ALL IN THE MEMORY HOLE IN THE NAME OF "MOVING FORWARD," then I will acknowledge that you did your job, late but eventually. Otherwise you may continue reading my middle digit.

h/t to Kula2316
--the BB