Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years Eve Video Party

Put Your Records On
Let's put politics aside for the moment, and just rock in the new year. Time to drink to excess and celebrate the freedoms we have remaining to us. I love this song, the tough part was choosing from the several versions on YouTube - I put up the studio video in October. There are other good live versions here and here. Setting the mood, "Just Go Ahead - Let Your Hair Down."

Next up is Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits, with Eric Clapton appearing as a guest. I swear there was no deliberate reference here to the fate of Saddam Hussein the night before last. This is a nice jammy live performance of the tune that made Mark Knopfler's band an overnight sensation in 1978.
Sultans of Swing

I've tried to concentrate mainly on live performances where available. I just linked to the rest of the videos so that the page wouldn't load too slowly. If the videos were featured in a previous Les Enragés post, clicking the title will take you there. Otherwise it will take you to YouTube.

David Bowie - Let's Dance
Elvis Costello - (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding
The Eagles - Hotel California
Steve Winwood - I'm A Man
Paul McCartney and Friends - Rock Medley
Neil Young - Cinnamon Girl
Eric Clapton (With Mark Knopfler) - Layla
Stevie Wonder with Bonnie Raitt - I Wish
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Voodoo Child
Bob Dylan and The Band - Like A Rolling Stone
John Coltrane - Favourite Things

Here's a few Videos from The Station Agent and Co. at the Space Station:

Dresden Dolls - War Pigs.
Bright Eyes - First Day of My Life.
Norah Jones - Bessie Smith.
John Coltrane - Naima.
Pearl Jam - Rearview Mirror.
Goldfrapp - The Train.
Rage Against the Machine - Bombtrack.

Got any links to good rock vids you don't see here? Just put them in comments so we can listen to them too. Think of this as like an old-time party in a friend's basement rec room - everybody brings their favourite 'stacks of wax', kicks off their shoes, and dances in their socks. -SBT-

I'm adding this one for local flavor:
Michelle Shocked -
Come a Long Way
Happy New Year! ~Jump

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Who Said That?

The Declaration was not a protest against government but against the excesses of government. It prescribed the proper role of government to secure the rights of individuals and to effect their safety and their happiness. In modern society, no individual can do this all alone, so government is not necessarily evil but a necessary good.
--Gerald Ford, the man who pardoned Nixon.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Justice in a Kangaroo Court?

As I write this, various news outlets are saying that the Americans have already turned Saddam over for an "imminent" execution. It`s hard to imagine how executing anyone convicted by a kangaroo court advances the cause of justice. It`s hard to imagine how anything good can come of this travesty of a "trial". There may have been a legitimate case against Saddam. There may have been legitimate accusations. But they were not heard in this court where the rules of evidence clearly did not apply, where the presumption of innocence was abandoned, where defense objections were dismissed out of hand, where the fix was in.

From Information Clearing House:
Saddam Hussein was a secular leader and a staunch friend of India, who consistently supported India on Kashmir and other issues. US corporate and British government media outlets have already tried to convict Saddam by playing up the Halabja massacres and other accusations which are not even part of this trial. When unsubstantiated allegations were made that Iraq was behind the plot to kill former US President George H.W Bush in Kuwait , father of the current US President in 1993, President Bill Clinton had hit Iraq with missiles. Why no charges against him!
Swiss legal expert Prof Marc Henzelin, Professor of international law at Geneva University had declined to defend Saddam Hussein. He put it this way in the same article: "Wonderful material for a US television series but nothing to do with a fair trial. I think it is all about justifying the United States' invasion of Iraq and to string Saddam Hussein up sooner rather than later without asking too many questions.”

The nature of the war --called illegal by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan --raises doubts about the legitimacy of Saddam`s trial itself --let alone the suspicious conduct of it. When Saddam --guilty or not --is executed by the illegitimate government of Jawad al Maliki, the US will have committed another war crime in a string of war crimes not matched since Adolph Hitler.

The case is often made that Saddam and the United States were partners in the perpetration of war crimes. See Robert Fisk`s latest article, He takes his secrets to the grave. Our complicity dies with him. Convenient for Saddam`s American co-conspirators! Here`s an excerpt:
The shameless, outrageous, covert military support which the United States - and Britain - gave to Saddam for more than a decade remains the one terrible story which our presidents and prime ministers do not want the world to remember. And now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that Western support - given to him while he was perpetrating some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War - is dead.

Gone is the man who personally received the CIA's help in destroying the Iraqi communist party. After Saddam seized power, US intelligence gave his minions the home addresses of communists in Baghdad and other cities in an effort to destroy the Soviet Union's influence in Iraq. Saddam's mukhabarat visited every home, arrested the occupants and their families, and butchered the lot.
Is subverting the very concepts of western justice what Bush meant when he said that we were fighting for Democracy in Iraq? Of the many lies told by Bush to justify his war of naked aggression, this must surely be the most egregious. America, under Bush`s criminal regime, proves itself not merely incapable but unwilling to support the very ideals of our founding.

-The Existentialist Cowboy


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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hope for Darfur

Sudanese President Accepts Joint UN-AU Deployment

According to UN estimates, 2.5 million have been displaced by the violence in Darfur. Nothing fun about that. Don't trot that stat out at your New Year Eve parties.

Well, thankfully, there is a bit of hope for the people of that downtrodden region.

From AFP:

The UN Security Council gave a guarded welcome to Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir's readiness to accept the deployment of a joint African Union-UN force in strife-torn Darfur.

The 15-member council met behind closed doors for nearly three hours to hear a briefing from departing United Nations chief Kofi Annan's envoy Ahmadou Ould Abdallah, who visited Khartoum last week, and to discuss a Beshir letter accepting the deployment.

Annan, who attended the meeting, said council members "are encouraged by the positive tone" of Beshir's letter.

Council members later adopted a statement welcoming Beshir's endorsement of the UN three-phase peace plan, including the deployment of a joint force, and underlining "their willingness to continue their close cooperation with the African Union and to continue to give priority to this issue."

By the way something, someone slip John Bolton a memo to the effect of, "Hey look, the U.N. is good for something."

The BBC talks to George Clooney about Darfur.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

UK Troops Demolish Police Station

Iraq Security Forces Untrustworthy
Let's see if I've got this straight. We'll stand down when the Iraqi security forces stand up, right? What I've always wondered is how do the coalition screen those they train and arm to enter into the security forces they hope will stand up at some undefined point in the future. In a country where the vast majority hate the US led occupation of their country, how do you give someone an assault rifle with the assurance it won't eventually find its way into the wrong hands? For that matter that the guy you're training isn't the wrong hands to begin with?

Actions by UK forces in Basra over the weekend really underline the importance of these questions in an undeniable way. Here's the story as reported by CBC news;
"British forces stormed a police station in Basra in southern Iraq on Monday, rescuing prisoners on death row and killing seven Iraqi gunmen during the pre-dawn raid.
More than 1,000 British troops backed by tanks then demolished the building with explosives.
The military called the police headquarters a symbol of oppression for the city's residents and said the unit was suspected of torturing and murdering prisoners.
Many of the 127 people rescued — all of whom were suspected criminals — were crowded together in a small cell, living in "appalling conditions," the military said.
But the Basra council has stopped co-operating with the military in protest of what the council described as an illegal raid...
..The operation came days after Iraqi officers were arrested Friday on suspicions of leading death squads. The unit is also accused of being responsible for murdering both local and international troops."
Once again, let me get this straight - Our guys (the Brits are still on our side, aren't they?) were appalled so much by the Iraqi security forces we trained and armed (the good guys) they've had to arrest some of them, raid a police building, release prisoners (the bad guys - predictably there is evidence of torture) and blow up the police headquarters. Because the 'stand up' guys we're hoping to hand the country over to are suspected of leading death squads. Hoo, boy! I think there is a notable flaw in this plan. And how does this square with this report from the BBC, only five weeks ago?
"The UK has 'confidence' it may be able to hand Basra's security to Iraqi forces 'at some point next spring', the UK's Foreign Secretary has said.
Margaret Beckett told MPs Iraq's fate was 'hanging in the balance' and said it was necessary 'to hold our nerve'.
'The progress of our current operation in Basra gives us confidence we may be able to achieve transition in that province... at some point next spring.' "
Uhhhh...I think you may want to rethink that one guys. If this is the way your brilliant plan is working out (the phrase, 'I doubt six months' bounces around in my head), you may be in it for the long haul hell.

The New York Times has more on this story.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Ave Maria

Luciano Pavarotti and Bono
I've been posting secular Christmas music for the last few days, but here's something completely different, a hymn composed by Franz Schubert. I grew to love this tune listening to Aaron Neville's version from the album Warm Your Heart. I will forgive Bono's weak vocal performance on this considering the lyrics he brings to the game, which allow me to continue the anti-war theme of my last two posts. For a straight-up operatic version of this magnificent song with just Pavarotti, you can go to Station Agent's music blog, The Walrus Speaks.

Here are Bono's lyrics;
*Ave Maria*
Where is the justice in this world?
The wicked make so much noise, mother
The righteous stay oddly still
With no wisdom, all of the riches in the world leave us poor tonight
And strength is not without humility
It's weakness, an untreatable disease
And war is always the choice
Of the chosen who will not have to fight
Ain't it the (SadBut) Truth?

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

More Classic Christmas Music

Judy Garland - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Obviously recorded during World War II - I found the images of GIs in Europe (they would have been fighting the Battle of the Bulge over Christmas, 1944 if my history serves) coupled with the hopeful lyric, "Next year all our troubles will be out of sight" to have a poignant connection to the present.
This one is for those currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, in hopes that they won't have to spend next Christmas away from their families fighting to fatten Dick Cheney's wallet and to defend George Bush's fragile ego.
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Thursday, December 21, 2006


Morgan Stanley Accused of False 9/11 Claim

As the construction begins on Freedom Tower, accusations of a great swindle have come to light. By now, we have become accustomed to great insults to the memory of the people who died on 9/11, because we have seen the Bush administration (not to mention Disney, Ann Coulter, Fox News...) co-opt 9/11 time and again for political gain. Despite the desensitization that has resulted from years of 9/11 abuse, the utter insensitivity of the crime Morgan Stanley has been accused of can not be overlooked.

From Raw Story:
In a disciplinary complaint, the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) alleges that Morgan Stanley used a "9/11 smokescreen" to hide e-mails sought by angry claimants in numerous arbitration proceedings from October 2001 through March 2005.

The securities industry's self-regulating arm accuses Morgan Stanley of "falsely claiming that millions of emails it possessed had been lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, where its email servers were housed."

Suddenly I believe in the death penalty--not for individuals, but for corporations.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Iraq and Nuke Near-Miss

'Near miss' at Pantex could have set off nuke, $110,000 fine for incidents...

Basically, last year the government was dismantling a really old nuclear warhead at the Pantex facility near Amarillo, they had some trouble, and to save time and money, they abandoned the safety protocol and used so much force that the device could have detonated. It was a W-56 1,200 kiloton warhead bearing 100 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. So in a sense it's like the government took a hammer to a nuclear device to save some time and money, caution be damned.

Sounds pretty bad, right? Call me crazy, but it reminds me of the Iraq War and Occupation:
  • The Project on Government Oversight watchdog group said the "near miss," which led the Energy Department to fine the plant's operator $110,000, was caused in part by technicians at the plant being required to work up to 72 hours per week.
Troops in Iraq, over-extended.

(By the way, as commenters on AMERICAblog pointed out, with a population of 173,627, that's less than a dollar per person, and counting the inflation rate and injury to those in surrounding areas, less than one cent per person affected.)

Troops in Iraq, underpaid.

  • The organization said it was told by unidentified experts "knowledgeable about this event" that the accident, in which an unsafe amount of pressure was applied to the warhead, could have caused it to explode.
Shock and Awe, but no Plan for Peace? (We'll just militarize the Freedom into marching...)
  • The group also released an anonymous letter, purportedly sent by Pantex employees, warning that long hours and efforts to increase output were causing dangerous conditions in the plant.
So said the Military Generals.
  • "Most production technicians work five 10-hour days, plus weekends," the letter states. "Our safety analysts get pounded on a daily basis to support the production schedule and are expected at times to work around-the-clock.
Again, the military, including the National Guard, is over-extended. The rules that have long been in place to protect the troops have been rewritten; some are facing their fifth tour of (suicide mission in) Iraq.
  • "And this is BEFORE we take the insane step of trying to complete work on 50 percent more units this fiscal year," it says. However, records show that the department last month fined BWX Technologies Inc., the company that operates Pantex under a contract with the department, $110,000 for the accident and for another incident involving the same warhead.
Can you say Korea? How about Vietnam?
  • In a letter to Dan Swaim, BWX general manager of the plant, the Energy Department said the company had "significantly delayed" disclosing the incidents and then submitted a "factually inaccurate and incomplete" report.

Cover up? (Energy Task Force oil field maps of Iraq, Bush's State of the Union Address, and the Bush/Cheney/Powell speeches?)

Notice the government taking responsibility? Notice how we're taking steps to actually make America safer? Notice a pattern?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Getting Tagged

...Without Grafitti

Well, I've been tagged.
By my fine friend, the Station Agent.
In a cunning game strategy and intrigue.

(I know.)

Here are the rules:

Find the nearest book
Name the book
The author
Turn to page 123
Go to the fifth sentence on the page
Copy out the next three sentences and post to your blog
Tag three more folks

The nearest book is: Theory-Based Data Analysis for the Social Sciences, by Carol Aneshensel.

(I know.)

Page 123, 5th sentence begins:
"Our interest in spuriousness comes in a roundabout fashion: We wish to eliminate spuriousness as an alternative explanation for an empirical association that we would like to interpret as a relationship. From this perspective, the analysis of spuriousness can be seen as establishing the internal validity of the focal relationship by default: The relatedness component of the total association is the covariation remaining after the spurious component is removed. The more strenuous the test of spuriousness, the greater our confidence in the inference of relatedness."
(I know.)

OK, friends, I am tagging:

Green Libertarian (Rants and raves of a semi-lunatic...)

The Colorado Progressive (A Colorado Progressive)

Prezzildent Despondent (Art Pottery, Politics and Food)

These are all new sites that I have recently discovered, and have much enjoyed.
May you, as well.

And remember, friends don't force friends to play games of tag; they invite.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Two or More Wrongs

...Don't Make a Right.
..Perpetuating the Victimization of Maher Arar.

What's got me enraged today? Mostly, this article in the Toronto Star, about US authorities refusing to take Maher Arar off a security watch list even though he has been cleared of any wrongdoing by a Canadian Royal Commission.
"In a written statement yesterday, the U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins said his government deported Arar in 2002 to Syria because of 'information from a variety of sources.'

Wilkins appeared to assert that the United States had its own reasons to act against Arar, and does not intend to comply with a Canadian government request to take Arar off its border watch lists.

...Wilkins' letter was not specific about what sources of information he was referring to — whether they were a "variety" of Canadian sources, or whether the intelligence came from U.S. officials or other foreign agents."The decision to remove Mr. Arar from the United States in 2002 was made by U.S. officials based on our own independent assessment of the threat to the United States," said Wilkins.

That means Arar is effectively barred from travelling to about 70 countries that share information with the U.S., Arar's lawyer, Julian Falconer, said last week."Due to a lawsuit in the United States initiated by Mr. Arar which was dismissed at the trial level and is now on appeal, I cannot go into any further detail," Wilkins said in the release."
Mr. Arar was kidnapped by American law enforcement personnel in September of 2002 on flimsy evidence, to whit; "the RCMP passed on erroneous information to the U.S., among other things, labelling Arar and his wife as 'Islamic extremists' linked to Al Qaeda." I use the term kidnapped because no charges were ever laid, so I won't dignify what happened with the word 'arrest.'

Arar was 'renditioned' to Syria where he spent nearly a year in an underground cell barely bigger than a coffin, and only taken out to be tortured daily. I blogged about this last Sept. 19. (Canadian Terror Suspect Vindicated.)

I deeply regret having referred to Mr. Arar as a 'terror suspect,' a term I parroted from the articles I was quoting. The correct term is 'innocent victim.' I do not regret reminding our readers that Mr. Arar's innocence was proven after an investigation that lasted two years. A line from a commenter on Glenn Greenwald's threads comes back to me, in that instance referring to Jose Padilla, but equally applicable here,
"The only thing that has ever gotten through to anyone is to list the evidence against Padilla, and point out, 'They have that much evidence against YOU.' Because, frankly, there is that much evidence on just about every American."
(H/T - DaveCM)

The phrase, "there but for the grace of God" comes to mind.

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Cross-posted to Ice Station Tango - A cool place to chill out.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Clothing and the First Amendment

The Naked Truth and More Free Speech for Everyone!

THIS is legal:

Judge: Florida woman didn't break law by exposing breasts...
DAYTONA BEACH - (AP) -- A woman did not break the law when she exposed her breasts to protest laws that bar women from publicly going bare breasted, a judge has ruled...Her attorney, Lawrence G. Walters, said the city is trying to censor his client:

''I've never seen another city or case where the city has shown so much time and effort to shut down one person's First Amendment right of protected speech,'' Walters said.

Breast of Canada

But THIS is not:

Banned for a George Bush T-shirt...
An Australian was barred from a London-Melbourne flight unless he removed a T-shirt depicting George Bush as the world's number one terrorist." Allen Jasson was also prevented from catching a connecting flight within Australia later the same day unless he removed the offending T-shirt.
Just sayin...

Cross-Posted at Ice Station Tango

The Iraq News

Death Count nears 3,000, McCain Goes After al-Sadr, Laura, Missing Oil and Iraq Study Group? What Iraq Study Group?

President Bush, when asked if he takes sleep aids, says he's sleeping like a baby these days. Actually he said he's sleeping a lot better than people would assume. While I ponder WTF that means, you people read another gut wrenching installment of...

...The Iraq News:
Okay, I figured it out. When the President opens his mouth, random words and phrases come out. The implication that he knows how bad Iraq is and knows it's his own fault, yet sleeps fine at night can only be a coincidence. It has to be, right?

VIDEO: I'll say it. I'm getting a little tired of Laura Bush.

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Crossposted at Ice Station Tango

Thursday, December 14, 2006


This Glenn Greenwald article has me literally wanting to throw up. I am so upset I can barely type, and tears are in my eyes. In the first case to test the habeas corpus-negating provisions of the onerous Military Commissions Act (AKA Torture Bill, AKA War Criminals' Protection Act), a district court has ruled in favor of the administration's bid to strip defendants of their constitutional and even pre-constitutional rights going back to the 13th. century Magna Carta. Glenn rightly describes the MCA as a 'legislative atrocity', and up until now I held out some hope that judges would have the decency and good sense to slap it down like an annoying insect.
"The decision was a major victory for the Bush administration's attempt to vest the President with the power to imprison individuals -- even for life -- without according them any meaningful opportunity to contest the validity of their imprisonment.

The district court ruled that (1) the MCA successfully stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions filed by "war on terrorism" detainees, and (2) under controlling Supreme Court precedent, "enemy aliens" who have no substantial connection to the U.S. (i.e., never resided inside the U.S.) have no constitutional right to seek habeas corpus review. As a result, the court dismissed the case of the Guantanamo detainee seeking habeas review here and, in essence, upheld the Bush administration's power to detain such "enemy combatants" forever while denying the detainees all access to our courts."
Glenn obliquely references the fact that the plaintiff, Salim Ahmed Hamdan (The same individual named in the lawsuit Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that forced the creation of the MCA) was protected not only under US law, but the Geneva Convention as well. This decision would seem to make official the status of the US as an out of control rogue state in the international community.
Meanwhile the majority of Americans remain either unaware or unconcerned that their country has been hijacked by war criminals, and calmly and complacently went about their holiday preparations. -baaaaa- I would think it more appropriate for the entire populace to don black armbands over this, wear sackcloth and ashes, or tear at the hem of their garments in mourning for the last hope that the constitution has not been torn to shreds. But that's just me.
Glenn provides links to the Washington Post's article on the decision, as well as the reaction from the Center for Constitutional Rights. I strongly recommend reading the latter in its entirety.
Cross-posted at Ice Station Tango
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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Finally, something the Pope and I can agree on

“This is a point which must be clearly reaffirmed: war in God's name is never acceptable!” ~ Pope Benedict XVI

“I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job.”~ George W. Bush

Today it was reported that Pope Benedict XVI will address much of his comments to be made on January 1 (the Catholic observance of World Peace Day) towards the U.S. , declaring states had to set ethical limits in what they do to protect their citizens from terrorism. He also will repeat his belief that war in God's name is never justified.

Based on his comments today, Bush (R-Antichrist) has no intention of ending his war of choice and will most likely increase troop levels. Meanwhile, 66% of Americans think the U.S. spies on its citizens. Sen. Leahy promises to subpoena a controversial detainee treatment memorandum which is said to outline actual interrogation procedures that have been approved by the Executive Branch in contradiction to the Geneva Convention against Torture. And Gitmo justice is just a sick joke.

Ethical limits? Bush don't do ethical limits.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

No War Toys for the Prince of Peace

This Christmas Eve Christian families will attend worship services to give praise and glory to the birth of the Prince of Peace. They'll light candles and sing "Silent Night, Holy Night." Then they'll tuck their children in bed and perhaps for just a moment there will be peace in their family.

And then Christmas morning those kids will jump out of bed and tear open countless presents wrapped in pretty paper and bows and squeal with delight over their treasures. I can't help but wonder how many of those presents will contain GI Joe and little green soldiers. All to the glory of the Prince of Peace.

The most insidious of war toys that will be given this year, however, is produced by Christians, for Christians. "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" is a video game produced by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The game is described on as "the ultimate fight of Good against Evil, commanding Tribulation Forces or the Global Community Peacekeepers, and uncover the truth about the worldwide disappearances! Wage a war of apocalyptic proportions and decide the fate of the world!"

Why is it that the only way Christians like LaHaye and his followers can envision saving the world is with bombs?

We need to foster understanding between the world's faiths now more than ever. But some good Christian kids will spend Christmas day gunning down nonbelievers.

Along the way, players will uncover ancient hidden scriptures. I suggest they start out with an ancient scripture that isn't hidden at all. You can easily find it in any bible at Isaiah 2:4b

They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Please, do not purchase war toys for the Prince of Peace.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Onward Christian Soldiers -Pt. 1

New Battles in the War Against The First Amendment

A couple of stories today about the ongoing efforts by elements in the Republican party and the current administration to turn America into a theocracy. First up is this item from the Washington Post on the subject of high-ranking officers in the Pentagon violating regulations by proselytizing in uniform.
"A military watchdog group is asking the Defense Department to investigate whether seven Army and Air Force officers violated regulations by appearing in uniform in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization.

In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military.
"I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate," Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. says in the video. "And I tell them right up front who Jack Catton is, and I start with the fact that I'm an old-fashioned American, and my first priority is my faith in God, then my family and then country. I share my faith because it describes who I am."
Pete Geren, a former acting secretary of the Air Force who oversaw the service's response in 2005 to accusations that evangelical Christians were pressuring cadets at the Air Force Academy, also appears in the video. The Christian Embassy "has been a rock that I can rely on, been an organization that helped me in my walk with Christ, and I'm just thankful for the service they give," he says.
In 2003, Army Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin drew criticism for appearing in uniform before church groups and saying, in remarks captured on video, that President Bush was "appointed by God," that the United States is "a Christian nation" and that Muslims worship "an idol." The inspector general's office determined that Boykin had not violated any rules, and he remained in a top intelligence post."
The part about Pete Geren I find particularly disturbing, as I blogged on the Air Force Academy issue HERE, and it is obvious that the response to complaints about this blatant violation of the first amendment is to assign someone who is part of the problem to deal with it. That approach seems to be part of White House doctrine these days, the policy of perpetuating every problem.

I myself am an atheist, but I respect other people's right to make up their own minds about things. I don't even see why some people object to such things as having the ten commandments displayed in public buildings, it sounds too much like censorship to me.
Blatant violations of the first amendment are another thing altogether. The protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights also protect believers and members of faiths not in the majority. See RevPhat's post on this subject HERE.
There is also the issue of being Christian and being a soldier to begin with. Many pacifist faiths require a conscientious abstention from military duty. This post at Lew Rockwell points out why.
"If the U.S. military was engaged in guarding our borders, patrolling our coasts, and genuinely defending the country instead of establishing and guarding a U.S. global empire, then perhaps a soldier would be a noble occupation that one could wholeheartedly perform as a Christian.
But now more than ever, the Christian in the military faces the possibility of having to kill (in the name of freedom and democracy, of course) for the state in some foreign country that we are not at war with (there has been no declaration of war in the United States since World War II) and many Americans can’t even locate on a map.
Blind obedience to the state is not a tenet of New Testament Christianity."
I don't even want to begin on the possibility that the Religious Right is deliberately trying to start a perpetual holy war against Islam. That's just too scary.

Update: The video mentioned above is now available at Crooks & Liars. Thanks, John. Thanks too to Mike for including me in today's Blog Roundup.

Onward Christian Soldiers - Pt. 2
Onward Christian Soldiers - Pt. 3: No War Toys For the Prince of Peace

Related Posts:
Faith-Based Initiatives Abused
Once Upon A Time
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Onward Christian Soldiers -Pt. 2

New Battles in the War Against The First Amendment

Item #2: From this New York Times article about a government funded program to rehabilitate prison inmates.
"The program — which grew from a project started in 1997 at a Texas prison with the support of George W. Bush, who was governor at the time — says on its Web site that it seeks “to ‘cure’ prisoners by identifying sin as the root of their problems” and showing inmates “how God can heal them permanently, if they turn from their sinful past.” "
To qualify for inclusion in the program the inmate had to, "satisfy the evangelical Christians running it that he was making acceptable spiritual progress." One big problem with it was that it was blatantly sectarian.
"One Roman Catholic inmate, Michael A. Bauer, left the program after a year, mostly because he felt the program staff and volunteers were hostile toward his faith.

“My No. 1 reason for leaving the program was that I personally felt spiritually crushed,” he testified at a court hearing last year. “I just didn’t feel good about where I was and what was going on.” "
Another problem was how do you judge the sincerity of prisoners being bribed for their participation? They were getting the following perks:
"More books and computers were available, and inmates were kept busy with classes, chores, music practice and discussions. There were occasional movies and events with live bands and real-world food, like pizza or sandwiches from Subway. Best of all, there were opportunities to see loved ones in an environment quieter and more intimate than the typical visiting rooms."
Sounds to me like something other than a prison environment. Several programs just like the one in Iowa just discussed have already been declared illegal.
"And, typically, the only penalty imposed when constitutional violations are detected is the cancellation of future financing — with no requirement that money improperly used for religious purposes be repaid.

But in a move that some constitutional lawyers found surprising, Judge Pratt ordered the prison ministry in the Iowa case to repay more than $1.5 million in government money, saying the constitutional violations were serious and clearly foreseeable.

His decision has been appealed by the prison ministry to a federal appeals court and fiercely protested by the attorneys general of nine states and lawyers for a number of groups advocating greater government accommodation of religious groups. The ministry’s allies in court include the Bush administration, which argued that the repayment order could derail its efforts to draw more religious groups into taxpayer-financed programs."

Well Boo frickin' Hoo. It's so typical of the Bush administration to break the law and then whine like babies when their transgressions are pointed out to them. I say Kudos to Judge Pratt for defending the Constitution and the rule of law.

Related Posts:
Onward Christian Soldiers - Pt. 1
Faith-Based Initiatives Abused
Once Upon A Time
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Saturday, December 09, 2006

It's Comin' On Christmas

Sara McLachlan - River
I couldn't find a version of this by Joni Mitchell herself, but this is pretty nice. There's another gorgeous version of this by Canadian Indie artist Allison Crowe HERE. The song poignantly captures the pre-Christmas blues many people get as the year's biggest family interface approaches. I hope you all enjoy it.

This song always makes me think of Ottawa, where every year they clear the snow off of the Rideau Canal to provide the world's longest and largest public skating rink. The little artificial puddle they put in front of Toronto City Hall pales in comparison. Skating is a great way to take off those turkey pounds put on over the holidays.

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It's Not a Civil War

It's the Gates of Hell

Jack Shafer has a nifty piece up on Slate called "How to Speak to a Republican... or a Democrat"(h/t Russ) about the battle over the proper nomenclature for the massive shit sandwich that is Iraq.

An excerpt, if you please:

In recent weeks, major U.S. news organizations have started using the phrase "civil war" to describe the unpleasantness in Iraq, prompting a brawl between liberal and conservative commentators.

Speaking on the left, Eric Boehlert derides the press for only now calling the mayhem a civil war. Boehlert accuses various organizations, which include NBC News, the New York Times, the Miami Herald, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Los Angeles Times, of accommodating President Bush by keeping the phrase out of their coverage for three-plus years. The administration abhors the phrase, preferring "sectarian violence."

Bush is looking for a new approach to whatever you want to call it. Remembering this sound advice will come in handy:

If you're still looking for some words to describe what's going on in Iraq that avoid the focus on bloody death and destruction, Mr. President, try 'Oil Grab'.

VIDEO: Bush focuses on "the way forward". Isn't it clear that these catch phrases are politically counterproductive? At this point, we can see the bullshit as they load it into the propaganda catapult.

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Crossposted at Ice Station Tango.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kudos Patrick Leahy

- "Has Actually Read the Constitution."
- Is Working to Restore Habeas Corpus

Here's an interesting tidbit. Due to the Democratic takeover of the Senate, Patrick Leahy (D - VT) will take the chair of the key Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Leahy of late has had a fire in his belly, the likes of which we haven't seen in a while. His sadness at the loss of comity and the discarding of basic Constitutional values under the Bush GOP has turned into outrage, and he has been consistently riveting in front of a crowd in recent months.

At a recent post-election party - "He related a conversation where he was recently asked if President Bush should be worried that he was now to be Chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. The crowd started cheering.

'No, no' he said, calming the crowd, as if to be prepared for a softening of his rhetoric.

'No, he shouldn't be worried. He should be terrified.'

Leahy went on to assure the crowd that, unlike "some in the administration," he'd "actually read the Constitution," and went on to promise that no judges nominated to the federal bench who would ignore that Constitution would ever get past his committee. (from the Green Mountain Daily)

That's not all folks. On Tuesday Leahy and outgoing Judiciary Committee Chair Arlen Specter introduced the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act (Statement in Congressional Record). While this falls far short of the more desirable goal of overturning the Military Commissions Act (aka War Criminals' Protection Act, aka Torture Bill) it's a welcome start. So Leahy gets my early nomination for Person of the Moment. Ahh, and sure it's a great day to be Irish!

Glenn Greenwald has a post today which discusses the Restoration Act's chances of overcoming a Repuglycan filibuster (slim) let alone receiving a veto-proof endorsement in the Senate (slim to none.) Glenn is slightly more optimistic to the idea of the provision of suspension being struck down by the Supreme Court on Constitutional grounds. Like anyone who can read can see that it clearly contradicts Article I, section 9.
Even if the Leahy/Specter bill had no chance of becoming law, it's worth doing for political reasons. Every Repug Senator that votes against it is forced to go on the record as OPPOSING AMERICAN VALUES in the most egregious manner. There are a lot of Republicans whose terms are up in '08. And if the bill overcomes a filibuster, Glenn points out, "even forcing a presidential veto by overcoming a filibuster would be worthwhile on many levels. (it would be remarkably illustrative if the only two measures over the course of six years which moved the President to exercise his veto power were a bill to provide for stem cell research and another to protect the 900-year-old writ of habeas corpus)" Shrub the Younger's historical legacy is already bruised and battered. Such an action would turn it into the putrifying corpse that it truly deserves to be.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Panel Rejects Fair Elections

..Votes Against Election Machine Checks
From the AP Wire:
"A federal advisory panel on Monday rejected a recommendation that states use only voting machines that produced results that could be independently verified.

The panel drafting voting guidelines for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission voted 6-6 not to adopt a proposal that would have required electronic machines used by millions of voters to produce a paper record or other independent means of checking election results. Eight votes were needed to pass it.

The failed resolution, proposed by Ronald Rivest, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist and panel member, closely mirrored a report released last week warning that paperless electronic voting machines are vulnerable to errors and fraud and cannot be made secure.

Some panel members who voted against the proposal said they support paper records but don't think the risk of widespread voting machine meltdowns is great enough to rush the requirement into place and overwhelm state election boards.

'They should be longer-range goals,' said Britain Williams of the National Association of Election Directors. 'You are talking about basically a reinstallation of the entire voting system hardware.' "
Question: Who decided that these people were competent and well-informed enough to be deciding this crucial issue? Their decision seems, well..INSANE!

Answer: "Congress created the panel after vote-counting problems in the 2000 presidential election to advise the Election Assistance Commission."

Oh, now I get it. This panel was hand-picked by a Republican Congress to come up with a predetermined conclusion. After SIX YEARS of dragging their feet which resulted in MORE dubious election results in 2002, 2004 and now 2006 (especially in FLA 13) these pinheads treat voter fraud like the Repug EPA treats global warming. And what a lame excuse to justify their decision. Reinstallation of the entire voting system hardware requires nothing more than printing paper ballots and providing enough pencils.

The only thing being preserved here is the Repugs chance to steal the election in 2008. This is disgusting.

Also read: What Election Fraud Looks Like -by Michael Richardson in OpEd News

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Stunning Admissions

Gates Admits we're Losing, Rumsfeld Admits we're Losing, Bush admits He's in Charge

Robert Gates--Bush's dad's candidate to replace gold medal-winning disgrace Donald Rumsfeld--just said at his confirmation hearings that we're not winning the war in Iraq.

Huh. Sounds like a fact. Something based in... reality. Shocking. Actually I think Rummy wrote something like that in a memo on his way under the bus.

Of course, Bush would never admit that Gates is Poppy's pick.

He also won't admit that Iraq is a civil war.

It's called, as Bob "Weathervane" Woodward so aptly put it, a "state of denial".

Today Bush made a push to liberate the state of denial by making a stunning, fact based admission of his own--"I am," he said, "the commander-in-chief."

That's our problem right there. Bush is going out of his way to make sure the world knows it's his power, not Daddy's. So feet will be dragged. Bush will make every delay possible to keep us in Iraq while more and more of our soldiers die.

And that--among all the other reasons--is why he is the worst son-of-a-bitch ever to sit in the Oval Office.

To which Eric Foner agrees, for fantastic reasons of his own.

VIDEO: Poppy Bush is not down with the blogs. Wonder why.

Crossposted at Ice Station Tango.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Olbermann on Erosion of Privacy

Perhaps some of you are familiar with Jonathan Turley, Law Professor at George Washington University, and a frequent commenter on Keith Olbermann's show. I really like the guy because he has a clear idea of what Constitutional protections of freedom and privacy are supposed to be about. In this piece he demonstrates that he also has a pretty good sense of humor.
Virtual Strip Search
Get a load of this exchange between Keith and Jonathan.

KO: "Having now seen that photo (right), we can't not begin with the X-Ray machine. It would seem Jonathan to be not just intrusive but actually indecent, so much so .. What is the difference between requiring passengers to subject themselves to that and simply asking them to strip off all their clothes before boarding?"

JT: "Well maybe this is a recruiting tool to get TSA applicants, which should now be called T 'n' A or something, I don't know. But most of us are more afraid we'll be sent to something like Jenny Craig than Gitmo after this, because it is a very revealing picture."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's two zingers in as many sentences, and both worthy of a Saturday Night Live skit, though admittedly neither would be the funniest line on even a mediocre night. And I don't think it's the best comedic technique to laugh at your own joke, especially before you even tell it as he does here. Nonetheless I give Jonathan two thumbs up for his effort, especially the reference to Jenny Craig. Not ROTFLMAO, but at least LOL. And for the record I don't think Turley's venture into comedy undermines his credibility when he speaks seriously to substantive issues.

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Inalienable Rights

...And Impeachable Offenses

God bless Glenn Greenwald for never letting up on the criminal behavior of the Bush administration and for reminding us that every day they are in power is a day that untold victims languish in torture prisons. And thank you Glenn for today's post refreshing our outrage at the treatment of Jose Padilla, a US citizen who was held in prison for 3½ years without charges, who was finally charged in November of 2005, who still awaits trial on nebulous charges for which there is so little evidence that he will most like be acquitted.

"Last month, I wrote about the torture -- there is no other accurate word for it -- to which Padilla alleges, quite credibly, he was subjected over the 3 1/2 years of his lawless detention. Today, The New York Times describes the apparently jarring video showing a completely dehumanized Padilla being transported from his black hole to a dentist visit.

They only brought charges against Padilla in November, 2005 -- and transferred him from his military brig to a federal prison -- because the Supreme Court was set to rule on the legality of their treatment of Padilla, something they were desperate to avoid.. . .But the administration continues to argue that it has the power to detain U.S. citizens -- including those, like Padilla, detained not on a "battlefield," but on U.S. soil -- indefinitely and without any charges being brought. Nothing has changed in that regard.

..John Aschroft flamboyantly brand him "the Dirty Bomber" and then leak to the press over the next two years that he wanted to blow up apartment buildings. But the indictment contained none of those allegations (because the "evidence" on which they were based was flimsy from the start and, independently, was unusable because it was obtained via torture).. ..forced to defend their accusations in court, the Bush administration's case against Padilla has been revealed to be incredibly weak.

The Bush administration currently has in its custody 14,000 human beings around the world (at least) who have never been charged with any crime (needless to say, we're not entitled to know the number or what is being done with them, because that's Secret, like everything else)."
The statements in this article seem to compete with one another for the most outrageous or enraging title. Perhaps the statement that comes closest to putting a bottom line on the story comes from the comments;

"The only thing that has ever gotten through to anyone is to list the evidence against Padilla, and point out, 'They have that much evidence against YOU.' Because, frankly, there is that much evidence on just about every American." (H/T - DaveCM)

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Days are Surely Coming . . .

When children are especially good; when the smell of cookies and pine needles fill the air; when visions of sugarplums dance in our heads.

Yes, the days are surely coming . . .

When you must untangle endless miles of Christmas lights; when someone beats you to your parking spot at the Florence Y'all; when someone runs over your heels with their grocery cart at the Kroger.

The days are surely coming . . .

When Christmas trees will overflow with DVD players and MP3 players
and Ipods galore;

When our hips and thighs will overflow from cookies and fudge and
Chex party mix and more.

Yes, the days are surely coming . . .

This week begins a new season in the church year . . . the season of Advent. "Advent" means the "coming or arrival of something extremely important." That "extremely important" something is Christ. We prepare for the coming of Christmas - we prepare for Jesus' coming, during Advent. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied during a time of great turmoil in Jerusalem - even the destruction of the city and of the Jewish temple. It was in the midst of this devastation and other world-changing events that would not go well for the Israelites - that Jeremiah preached a message of the hope to come. The days are surely coming . . . No matter what horrors engulf our lives, God always is there, offering us hope. Yes, the days are surely coming.

Days of justice and righteousness. Days of safety and salvation. Days of peace and shalom. Days when love will be the basis for all our actions. Days of health and wholeness. Days of well-being for people who have walked in darkness. Days of no pain...days of no more tears.

Yes, the days are surely coming . . .

The days are surely coming when aids is cured.

The days are surely coming when every gun is beaten into a tool for rebuilding.

The days are surely coming . . . when every child has the opportunity to develop God-given gifts; and every adult sees every child as a gift from God.

The days are surely coming . . .

The days are surely coming when:
No city fears hurricanes
No country fears nuclear bombs
No tribe fears annihilation by another.

The days are surely coming when no person fears another because God chose to create all people in the diversity of God's image.

The days are surely coming . . .


This is basically my Advent meditation from morning worship. As I present it here for you, for some sick reason Bill O'Reilly and his so-called "War on Christmas" came to mind. The Unruly Mob consists of Christians, Spiritualists, Atheists, secular humanists and more. But I knew that even in all our variety, we could still come together and paint a vision of the world that one day could come to pass. Bill has his war. Tell me about your hope for the world. I believe that day surely is coming.