Saturday, November 17, 2007

In another country is...

By Carol Gee

. . . a good place to look for the truth about what is going on in the news about Guantanamo Bay. The Financial Times of London carried the 11/9/07 story of the latest U.S. government's "military justice" high-jinks at its detention camp in Cuba. Headlined, "US accused of concealing Guantánamo evidence," the story begins with information that is not at all surprising. To quote:

Omar Khadr, the 21-year old Canadian captured in Afghanistan five yeas ago, was on Thursday escorted in handcuffs into a courtroom at Guantanamo Bay for the latest attempt to bring him to justice.

. . . The Pentagon hopes that the military commissions will help legitimise the legal process at Guantanamo Bay, which has come under intense criticism from human rights groups and foreign governments since the US first started transferring detainees to the Cuba prison in 2002.

Immediately after the hearing, however, defence lawyers for Mr Khadr, who is accused of killing a US soldier with a grenade, renewed criticisms of the process by claiming that the US government had known for years about secret evidence that could help his defence.

. . . After the hearing, Cmdr Kueger urged Canada to do more to help Mr Khadr, pointing out that the UK and Australian governments had successfully repatriated their nationals from Guantanamo. He added that part of the problem of trying Mr Khadr at Guantanamo was that the system made no adjustments for the fact that he was a ”child soldier”.

We can also look for the truth in the New York Times. Op-Ed contributors David Bowker and David Kaye are former staff lawyers at the State Department in the Clinton and Bush administrations. I linked to their 11/10/07 NYT article yesterday in a S/SW post. Today's post explores how the Guantanamo issue pertains to other countries. To quote further from the NYT op-ed piece:

. . . the costs have been high. Guantánamo has come to be seen worldwide as a stain on America’s reputation. The military commissions have failed to deliver justice, stymied by the federal courts’ refusal to permit the president to create a system at odds with United States courts-martial and the international law of war.

Meanwhile, the number of detainees at Guantánamo has steadily dropped to a little over 300, from its peak of more than 700, no more than 80 of whom are likely to face any kind of American prosecution. Not a single defendant has gone to trial, and only one has pleaded guilty.

Today, most American leaders acknowledge the need for a new approach. The president himself has expressed a desire to see the detention camp closed. But he has only a little more than a year to do so before the next president takes office. It’s time to take a close look at this system of detention and prosecution and move quickly to establish viable alternatives.

The "From the Numbers" list in the attorneys' op-ed piece is absolutely fascinating as it pertains to the place of other countries in the mix. To quote just a few items:

Approximate number of countries of which detainees are citizens: 40

Most represented countries at Guantánamo: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen

Number of convictions: 1 (an Australian who pleaded guilty to material support of terrorism and was sentenced to nine months of confinement in his home country)

Month of first release of a detainee: May 2002 (one detainee repatriated to Afghanistan because of an “emotional breakdown”)

Countries to which Guantánamo detainees have been transferred: Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, Yemen

Most recent announced transfer of detainees from Guantánamo: Nov. 4 (eight to Afghanistan, three to Jordan)

Closest American allies that have called for Guantánamo’s closing: Britain, France, Germany

Closing Guantanamo means rendition to another country or transfer to the United States. We are between a rock and a hard place. London's Financial Times has an excellent article written a few weeks ago that defined many of the most important issues and discussed Defense Secretary Gates surprisingly public efforts to close the facility. To quote its conclusion:

While the administration continues to consider its options, it is trying to reduce the population at Guantánamo by repatriating as many detainees as possible. US officials hope that European Union countries that have criticised the facility will do more to help.

"European governments privately acknowledge that there are many dangerous individuals in Guantánamo who they don't want to see walking free," said one senior US official.

"They also understand the legal and practical difficulties involved in prosecuting these individuals or returning them to their home countries. But virtually none of them will say this publicly, and instead [they] continue to call for closure of Guantánamo or full criminal trials of anyone who is held."

Jennifer Daskal, Washington advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, says that, while the US has created the problem, the international community "could go a long way towards helping Washington by coupling its calls for closure of Guantánamo with concrete actions like a willingness to accept some of the Uighurs or other detainees who cannot be returned to their home countries but are cleared for release".

"Guantanamo manual leaked on web." -- The BBC News carried this Guantanamo article a couple of days ago. (Note that their web page is a very good resource for all kinds of key stories and analysis about this notorious detention camp). To quote:

The US military said the manual seemed authentic but was out of date and should not have been publicly released.

About 340 prisoners are still held at Guantanamo, which was opened in 2002 to detain people suspected of terrorism or links to al-Qaeda or the Taleban. Allegations of abuse at the camp have been lodged by detainees, their lawyers and human rights groups. Calls from both within the US and around the world to close the camp have gone unanswered.

I feel like a broken record -- My links today include the first post I wrote (12/10/05) about what was happening to all those people picked up and detained by the military during our Middle East adventure. It was titled, "Secret jail reports from across the sea." I include it because is is a stark reminder of how little has changed over the years. It is one of my 19 posts about "Guantanamo." So I remind myself again that right now there are 429 days, 14 hours+ left in the administration of George W. Bush.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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If you're black, go back

By Capt Fogg

There's no bronze statue, no stainless steel arch; there's really nothing to show that the stretch of Florida's Atlantic coast from Jupiter up to the St. Lucie inlet is a gateway for the huddled masses arriving regularly from the Bahamas in small boats. Most have set out from Cuba or from Haiti, having paid smugglers to make the 60 mile run from Grand Bahama Island's West End. It's been a smuggler's route since the Civil War, and many a case of rum entered Florida in mahogany speed boats during the prohibition era. Only the cargo has changed.

It's common for smugglers to avoid coming too close to the shore. The tricky sandbars and the surf make it dangerous and so they urge or push the illegal immigrants overboard. Some drown and are washed up on the beaches miles away, some make it ashore in places like Jupiter Island where they are rapidly picked up and there's where the strangeness of our immigration laws begins. Haitians are summarily deported and it's unusual for any of them to convince ICE that they fled Haiti in fear of their lives and qualify for asylum. Cubans get to call their Florida relatives to come and pick them up, while the men they paid to transport them will go to jail if caught. I can't think of any other circumstance under which paying someone to commit a crime is not a crime.

You don't hear much about this from Lou Dobbs and not only is there no discussion of building an Atlantic Wall, small craft come ashore by the thousands with very little oversight from the Coast Guard. No one has ever stopped my boat to see who might be lurking below in the cabin, but I've spent an hour waiting to drive into the US from Mexico, and they don't wave you through when coming from Canada any more.

All in all, the Cubans are more likely to take your job than Haitians or Mexicans or Guatemalans; just as likely to be unsavory characters and not much more likely to be fluent in English. Why the preferential treatment? Why will we fight to keep undocumented Cubans from returning but no one else? Why did we continue this practice while Castro cleared out his jails and sent them all north?

There are a variety of reasons for treating Cuban immigrants differently. None that I've heard have been good reasons, nor has this practice done anything to weaken Fidel Castro's regime or to dispel the perception of the US as a racist, hysterical, xenophobic country obsessed with Communism but completely unconcerned by decency or human values.

(Cross posted from Human Voices.)

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Top Ten Cloves: Things Markos Moulitsas will have to look out for when working with Karl Rove at Newsweek

News Item: Karl Rove Hired As Newsweek Contributor To ‘Balance’ Markos

By J. Thomas Duffy

10. Markos will need to remember, when they bump into each other, to call him "Turd Blossom", not "Turd Face."

9. Markos have to come up with a good response, when trapped in the elevator and Rove, boastfully, challenges him with "And how many times did the Grand Jury call you in?"

8. Markos can't look sheepish when Rove presses him on "How many governors did you get thrown in jail?"

7. It's back to school for Markos, to brush up on and learn that New Math of Roves'

6. If Markos wants to vote in 2008, as long as Markos works with Rove, he needs to verify - frequently - with his local voting commission that they have his correct address.

5. One thing Markos can definitely ignore -- dancing lessons from Karl Rove.

4. Markos shouldn't bite when Rove tries to get him to answer "And how many U.S. Attorneys did you get fired?"

3. If Markos has any family or relatives that work, covertly, for the CIA, he's got to keep that info away from Rove.

2. Markos will have to come up with somebody, to be their brains, or have to endure Rove's sing-song taunts of "I'm Bush's Brain ... I'm Bush's Brain ..."

1. Markos shouldn't bring up, or interview, Margaret Spellings... Karl's still a little touchy about it ...

Why, It's A Mini Rovepalooza Linkfest

Kos: It's Karl Rove

Karl Rove's New Gig

Jane Hamsher/Firedoglake: Newsweek to Hire Karl Rove

Steve Benen/The Carpetbagger Report: Juan Williams defines ‘journalist’

Digby: "It's A Great Lie"

A Further Embellishment On The Appropriately Named CREEP

Logan Murphy/Crooks and Liars: Keith Olbermann Says Goodbye To Turd Blossom

Joan Walsh/Salon: The man who sold the war

Lou Dubose/Salon: The collapse of Karl Rove; The Pygmalion strategist from Texas built up the Republican Party by exploiting the religious right -- and now his handiwork is crumbling.

Markos: If he offers, pass on the dancing lessons.

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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The Overarching Crisis

By Carl

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a new report which one author has termed its "strongest report yet."

There's not a helluva lot of good news in it, I'm afraid, but that doesn't mean action can't be taken immediately:

Among the report's top-line conclusions are that climate change is "unequivocal", that humankind's emissions of greenhouse gases are more than 90% likely to be the main cause, and that impacts can be reduced at reasonable cost.

The synthesis summary finalised late on Friday strengthens the language of those earlier reports with a warning that climate change may bring "abrupt and irreversible" impacts.

Such impacts could include the fast melting of glaciers and species extinctions.

(ed. note: Or the forced evacuation of a city of millions and its environs.)

"Approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5C (relative to the 1980-1999 average)," the summary concludes.

Other potential impacts highlighted in the text include:

- between 75m and 250m people projected to have scarcer fresh water supplies than at present
- yields from rain-fed agriculture could be halved
- food security likely to be further compromised in Africa
- widespread impacts on coral reefs

Please note the clause I highlighted: if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5C (relative to the 1980-1999 average). That means the IPCC has dumbed down the assessment targets for warming, basically tossing out the first hundred years of formal meteorological recorded history to focus on the era that was already far warmer than it ever had been since the last Ice Age.

Things are bad enough that the Norwegian government has decided to open a "Doomsday Vault" to store seeds to survive the coming crisis:

Engineers have begun the two-month process of cooling down a "doomsday vault", which will house seeds from all known varieties of key food crops.

The temperature inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault will drop to -18C (0F) in order to preserve the seeds.

Built deep inside a mountain, it aims to safeguard the world's crops from future disasters, such as nuclear wars, asteroids or dangerous climate change.

The first seeds are scheduled to arrive at the Arctic site in mid-February.

The Norwegian government is paying the $9m (£4.5m) construction costs of the vault, which will have enough space to house 4.5 million seed samples.

In the Hollywood version of this, the vault survives global climate change only to get hit by an asteroid, or worse, a fungus, but I digress.

It can't be helping any that carbon dioxide emissions have grown 35% faster than predicted since 2000... gee... who's been president this whole time, I wonder?

We're going to start seeing many more stories like this one, "US wants freeze on tuna fishing," in the near future. And yes, the United States comes off as a petulant little boy in that story, for a reason!

Yes, the presenting cause has been overfishing, but the backdrop to the story is that bluefin tuna are as reliant on zooplankton as every other fish in its food chain, and global warming is decimating the entire oceanic life cycle.

Atlantic cod is a good example of how this plays out: cod fishing was banned in the Grand Banks off the American coast in 1992.

Cod are still there, but their numbers have not increased since the ban went into effect, meaning they are barely breeding at replacement rates and not growing a population, which you'd expect for an apex fish.

So is there any good news out of this summary report of the IPCC's previous three reports this year? Sure. A little.

The growth in greenhouse gas emissions can be curbed at reasonable cost, experts at a major UN climate change conference in Bangkok have agreed.

Boosting renewable energy, reducing deforestation and improving energy efficiency can all help, they said. [...]

The sharpest cuts, keeping greenhouse gas concentrations to levels equivalent to between 445 and 535 parts per million of carbon dioxide, might cost anything up to 3% of global GDP by 2030, while milder curbs could even enhance growth.

Basically, signing onto and keeping to the Kyoto Protocols, for less than $400 billion per year, or roughly what we spend in Iraq in one year, including the "hidden costs."

Hmmm... which leading economic power has refused to endorse that, I wonder?

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Monkey business

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Truly wonderful: "A rare newborn woolly monkey, weighing just 14oz (400g), at a primate sanctuary in Dorset, England. He is being hand reared after he was unable to suckle from his mother." (BBC)


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So this is what it has come to...

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In case you missed it -- and, thankfully, there are fine bloggers like Steve Benen who watch the debates, and write about them, so we don't have to (unless you're into that sort of thing -- I watch them, now and then, but mostly I catch the highlights later) -- Hillary Clinton was asked at the end of Thursday's Democratic debate in Las Vegas whether she preferred diamonds or pearls.

A ridiculous and insulting (to her, to us, to the process, to democracy) question, to be sure.

But Maria Luisa, a student at UNLV, had actually wanted to ask a question about nuclear waste, not Clinton's taste in jewelry. (Clinton laughed, but there was nothing funny about it.) Indeed, it was CNN, the debate host network, that told her to ask the diamonds/pearls question -- see Marc Ambinder, who quotes from Luisa's MySpace page. For its part, CNN is denying that it "forced" her to ask the question. Greg Sargent's assessment makes sense:

So this is both better and worse for the network. On the one hand, it's better because the question was originally submitted by the girl, and it's obvious that the girl was hardly "forced" to ask this; rather, she was offered the opportunity and took it. The network wanted to close on a light question, and they chose this one.

On the other hand, the network is confirming that it did in fact choose a question that quizzed the first credible female Presidential candidate on her taste in jewelry. That's confessing to some pretty questionable taste.

Absolutely. The question was both "amazingly lame" and "fairly offensive," as Josh Marshall puts it. But do we really expect much else from the news media these days? CNN is right to be blamed for this, but it is hardly alone in reducing politics down to such levels. And though the question was ridiculous and insulting and lame and offensive, it was hardly more so than Fox News, the entirety of which is ridiculous and insulting and lame and offensive, or than whatever nonsense Chris Matthews or Tim Russert is spewing at any given moment over on the peacock network. Indeed, much of this campaign involves the news media's vulgar sexualization of the Democratic field -- notably their attempts to dominate Clinton (or to present her as a manly bitch) and to emasculate Obama and Edwards.

And the diamonds/pearls question was just more of the same, if somewhat less vulger that so much of what has preceded it. Indeed, what was this other than a last-minute message from CNN that Clinton is submissive, a woman who likes her jewels, a woman who, by virtue of being a woman, a member of the far, far weaker sex, may not quite be what Americans are looking for in a president, which is someone with the balls -- literally -- to wage war, spy, and torture.

Her husband received the boxers/briefs treatment, speaking of balls, but that was nothing compared to this. That made him look human, this made her look like a jewel-crazy princess in need of a strong man to confirm her submission. Her response to the question didn't help matters -- I would have preferred something along the lines of "Fuck you, CNN!" (now that would have been truly ballsy) -- but she handled the stupidity of the moment fairly well. And although the intent may have been to make her look like a princess, I suspect that she will ultimately benefit from the transparent inanity of it all.


Here's the video. Watch it.

And then take a moment to contemplate the poor, wretched state of American democracy, as well as the equally poor and even more wretched state of America's news media.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Tom Swift and his amazing electric rifle

By Capt. Fogg

I was sick to my stomach after watching the man die screaming on the floor, a policeman's knee on his throat while another hit him with a Taser, again and again. Of course the immediate response was to lie and insist he had attacked the police, but the camera doesn't lie. His crime was being unable to speak English in an international airport too disorganized to have an interpreter on the staff.

I felt the same way when a handcuffed man died in a neighboring town after being hit one of these devices earlier this year and again today about the man described by BBC News who was comatose on the seat of a bus and yet was Tasered by zealous policemen when he couldn't answer their questions.

It's unlikely that any officer will be prosecuted for doing anything wrong by attacking or killing defenseless, unarmed people in this fashion even though all of them had other alternatives. The Taser, which derives it's name from the early 20th century boy's adventure books, is an acronym for Tomas A Swift Electric Rifle. Unfortunately, we're arming people with the emotional stability of a teenager with these things and convinced that it's non lethal, even though scores of people have died after being Tased, they will used them as a substitute for professional police work. Witness the Canadian police, whose first words were "Can we tase him?" and how they ignored the information that he simply needed an interpreter and tased him; tased him again when he was down on the floor screaming and then again until he died.

Taser International's assertion is that the Taser has never killed anyone although many people have died from related causes - like the cardiac arrest caused by being hit by a Taser. That's a bit like saying bullets don't kill people, it's the bleeding. Over 220 people have been killed by them in the US alone.

A quasi-lethal weapon like this is a dangerous thing. It allows or encourages inappropriate and sometimes reckless force without the appropriate restraint. It is being sadistically used against non-violent prisoners. It is being used as a first response on anyone suspicious looking, or anyone angry or shouting or stubborn or unresponsive.

It kills people at its worst, traumatizes and humiliates them at best and quite obviously is a joy to use for those authorities who enjoy traumatizing and humiliating people or are simply too cowardly to be policemen. It's time to ban the things.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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The disgrace debate

By Edward Copeland

Anyone who reads me knows that it is my mission to stop the Democrats from making the fatal mistake of nominating Hillary Nothing-But-Ambition Clinton as their 2008 standardbearer because she will be the easiest for the GOP to beat in an election that should be a cakewalk.

However, I'm not going to whine about her today. This post is solely to slam what used to be a reputable news channel, CNN. Their debate last night was atrocious. There have been criticism of the moderators and questions at other debates (such as Tim Russert), but by God, at least NBC knows how to corral an audience. It was ridiculous to hear candidates drowned out by boos because the audience had been stacked with so many partisans.

As a TV show, it failed as well with that inane opening giving us a glimpse of the "pre-debate photo op." Yes, that's something essential that America needs to see while Wolf Blitzer drones on and time is wasted. Some of the best parts did come from the audience questions, but that turned ridiculous by closing with the diamonds or pearls question for Hillary, memories of boxers or briefs dancing in my head. Of course, that was at an MTV forum, not CNN.

As for the debate itself, it seemed pretty much a wash to me. Obama fumbled a bit at times and Edwards seemed cowed by the ridiculous booing. Once again, Biden always ends up being the most thoughtful and entertaining candidate on the stage. It's a shame his campaign isn't going anywhere.

I have to ask why the Dems snubbed Fox debates when this CNN debacle had to be worse than even the worst Fox debate could be.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

A step back for our nation's security

By Creature

Thank you, Chuck Schumer.

CNN: In his second day on the job, Attorney General Michael Mukasey leaped into the political fray, telling a key Democratic senator he opposes his electronic surveillance plan and would recommend the president veto it if it is passed.

But Mukasey's threat isn't even what pisses me off the most. The White House, as usual, takes the cake:

The White House, meanwhile, released a statement calling Leahy's plan "a step back for our nation's security."

The White House has no standing to call anything "a step back for our nation's security." Iraq is a step back for our nation's security. Leaving Afghanistan to fester is a step back for our nation's security. Torture is a step back for our nation's security. A broken army is a step back for our nation's security. I could continue, but you get the idea. Assholes, all of them.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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An interesting turn of phrase

By Carl

Buried in the hoopla over last night's Congressional passage of the
war funding bill (with the proviso that troops must return home by the end of 2008), came this little comment:

The measure angered the Bush administration. "This is for political posturing and to appease radical groups," chiefly and Code Pink, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said yesterday.

"Radical groups"?

Is it a radical movement when, alongside, and Code Pink, you have "Gold Star Families For Peace"? Is
Pat Buchanan now wearing tie-dye and flashing the peace sign? Ron Paul? Senator James Webb and Paul Craig Roberts are clearly subversives living in Chuck Hagel's basement, mixing up the "medicine"...

And is MoveOn
truly anti-war? Many think not, given that they have backed off earlier demands of immediate troop withdrawals.

The attempt by the Bush administration to paint this issue as a fringe whine is specious to the point of ridiculous.
61% of Americans agree with the timetable as laid out in the bill. That 61% includes 63% of Republicans, further, the number of self-identifying Republicans in this country has plummeted since the 2004 election, so it's a bigger chunk of a closer-knit core of believers. After all, these numbnuts buy into Mitt Romney as the most conservative of all the GOP presidential candidates. Mitt. Romney. Of Massachussetts.

If only we had a press corps unafraid of this administration to hold its feet to the fire and fire back at Perky Dana Perino, but if we had that in the first place, maybe this ill-conceived, poorly executed bad idea would never have occured in the first place.

You might recall that Democrats had been itching for Republicans to bring on a filibuster. Probably not going to happen, now:

Senate Republican leaders said they will allow a vote on the House bill, but only if they can offer their own version: a $70 billion package with no strings attached. As of late yesterday, no agreement had been reached between Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and his GOP counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). Senate aides on both sides said that the debate is likely to continue into December, although Republicans are expected to stand aside eventually to give Bush a chance to veto the bill.

You'll notice: $20 billion dollars more than the President requested and no strings attached. There's a bit of political theatre afoot, in that Bush can later criticize Democrats (should this bill pass) of overspending us into a deeper hole while getting more than enough money to fund the war for an additional month or so. Not very subtle. I'm surprised at McConnell, but maybe he's running out of tricks in the flea circus.

Given the likelihood of a veto, and that Reid doesn't have 60 votes to wrangle over a potential filibuster, what will happen? Will the war continue to be funded?
Maybe not this time:

If Democrats hold together, they can simply refuse to approve any new funding for the war unless Bush and the Republicans agree to their terms. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insists that that's how it's going to be this time, sort of: If Bush won't agree to funding tied to a timetable, Congress won't approve any new funding -- this year. But that doesn't mean that the war will end; it just means that the Pentagon will have to shuffle money from budget to budget until early next year, when the Democrats will surely cave once again lest they be accused -- and they'll be accused anyway -- of " pulling the rug out from under our troops."

OK, it's small potatoes to defund the war for a month and make the Pentagon scramble a little to shuffle money around, but it's a bit more than a symbolic gesture, should Reid follow through with it.

It could be a calculated gamble to see if the anti-invasion sentiment of the 61% is as strong as the polls indicate it is, or if the American people are just tired of this nonsense and seek an easy way out. If by delaying funding for a month or so without actually pulling money away, the Republicans and their orc minions in the mainstream media can make the "Defeatocrats" label stick such that people switch positions away from ending the invasion, then Reid can capitulate, and deflect that charge with plenty of time left before the elections.

If, however, they fail, it may embolden Reid enough to take the bull by the horns and yank funding outright. Remember, he might not be able to survive a veto on positive change, but he sure as hell can make sure negative change doesn't get past his Senate.

Meanwhile, 100,000 plus American soldiers sit in harm's way waiting for someone to save them...

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Sign of the Apocalypse #52: The world of LARPing

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We all have our fantasies, even our fantasy worlds, worlds that allow us to be true to ourselves, for good or bad, or neither. Put another way, we all have dreams, dreams about ourselves, ideal images of ourselves, self-constructs. Society requires one to be many things, to wear many masks, to play many roles, some fulfilling, some not, or not so much, but even the happiest person, even the most self-aware, finding happiness in genuine self-awareness, in knowing oneself, cannot but fall short of the ideal. (Even Socrates must have had his doubts and disappointments, and, yes, his fantasies.) And this is especially true, I think, in our age of the deification of the self, an age in which the self is celebrated, in which freedom reigns, in which individuals, in our more progressive societies, are able to "find" themselves in so many different ways, an age in which choice is supreme, an age in which choices can be made, and are made, for the greater glorification of the self.

Okay, enough of that.

My point is that freedom and choice do not necessarily make for happiness, and many people today are living lives that seem, in one way or another, meaningless, which is to say, devoid of meaning, even pointless. You get up, you commute, you sit in a cubicle, your boss yells at you, you play office politics, you count the seconds, you drink, you narcotize yourself. You're stuck in a crappy job, a dead-end career, a broken family. You're in debt, massive debt, and you worry about retirement, if you sober up enough to think about anything at all.

Yup, it's pretty bleak out there, and wherever you are right now.

Quite probably, it's pretty bleak in your soul, too.

So go ahead and fantasize. Go find yourself.

Just don't hurt anyone.


Which brings me to this: LARPing.

Do you know what that stands for? I didn't, and I'd never even heard about it before I read this review of a documentary on LARPing by Grady Hendrix at Slate.

So what does it stand for? Well, here you go:

Darkon is a LARP (live-action role-playing game) where normal people dress up in homemade armor and pretend to be inhabitants of a fantasy realm. They fight battles in parks and on soccer fields over pretend land in a pretend country that has its own pretend religions and pretend economy. It's meatspace Dungeons & Dragons, with people brandishing swords wrapped in foam and slamming each other around with padded shields. Founded in 1985, Darkon is one of America's oldest and largest LARPs, and the showdown between two kingdoms within it, Mordom and Laconia, was captured in the documentary Darkon, a movie so mighty it needed two directors (Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer). The film... joins the ranks of movies like Hoop Dreams and Murderball as one of the great documentary dissections of how Americans play.

Got that? It's live-action fantasy. And it's pretty serious:

There are tens of thousands of LARPers around the world, and in the United States, a national LARPing event like the massive Ragnarok meet held in Ohio can draw several thousand attendees. Darkon has 700 members, fielding up to 150 people at any given battle.

For more... well, just read the article. The whole thing -- the whole phenomenon of LARPing -- is odd. It's hard to believe people actually do this, and get so into it. (Check out the entry at Wikipedia, too.)

But is it odd? Look, I have my fantasies, too. I won't get into them here, sorry, but I am an avid fantasy sports enthusiast. Every Sunday during the NFL season I'm not just obsessing about the Steelers but also following closely how the real life players on my fantasy team(s) are doing. Brees and Hasselbeck, LT and Marshawn, Holt and Gonzales -- my mood rises and falls based on how well they do, or how poorly. And all this in front of the computer screen, and on TV, flipping around from game to game to see "my" players. At least the LARPers do their thing outside. At least their thing is physical. At least they're connecting with each other -- well, connecting as characters who may or may not be their true selves, or, rather, shadows of their true selves, of their personal ideals. (Okay, fantasy sports isn't my only thing, but you get my point -- I hope.)


There's no way I can give LARPing a free ride here. It is -- both in itself and its stunning popularity -- a Sign of the Apocalypse, a sign that all is not well with the world today.

I understand its appeal and I understand the motivations that lead people to it -- at least I think I do. Other fantasy worlds make sense, why not this one?

But the role-playing component of this... hobby, if I may call it that... the gravitas with which the participants throw themselves into it... It's an outlet, and maybe a relatively healthy one, I don't know... but it's awfully bizarre.

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War, poverty, and allegations of child witchcraft in Africa

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Another disturbing (and horrifying) development in Africa, as reported by the NYT:

In parts of Angola, Congo and the Congo Republic, a surprising number of children are accused of being witches, and then are beaten, abused or abandoned. Child advocates estimate that thousands of children living in the streets of Kinshasa, Congo’s capital, have been accused of witchcraft and cast out by their families, often as a rationale for not having to feed or care for them.

The officials in one northern Angolan town identified 432 street children who had been abandoned or abused after being called witches. A report last year by the government’s National Institute for the Child and the
United Nations Children’s Fund described the number of children said to be witches as “massive.”

The notion of child witches is not new here. It is a common belief in Angola’s dominant Bantu culture that witches can communicate with the world of the dead and usurp or “eat” the life force of others, bringing their victims misfortune, illness and death. Adult witches are said to bewitch children by giving them food, then forcing them to reciprocate by sacrificing a family member.

But officials attribute the surge in persecutions of children to war — 27 years in Angola, ending in 2002, and near constant strife in Congo. The conflicts orphaned many children, while leaving other families intact but too destitute to feed themselves.

“The witches situation started when fathers became unable to care for the children,” said Ana Silva, who is in charge of child protection for the children’s institute. “So they started seeking any justification to expel them from the family.”

To which one can respond... how? Needless to say, it will take putting an end to war and poverty in Africa, or at least to most of the war and most of the poverty, to free these poor children and their demented families from this madness. In the meantime, and it will be a long, long time, one hopes that international aid and the involvement (and perhaps intervention) of international organizations can alleviate some of the suffering.

The deeper problem, however, is that this isn't just about politics and economics. It's about culture and religion as well. And it is far more difficult to change the latter than the former, which means that putting an end to war and poverty would only be the start.

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Headline of the Day (presidential politics edition)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

My goodness, this is truly stunning:

Here are the details:

Citing exhaustion, an overcrowded field of candidates, and little hope of making a difference in 2008, roughly 300 million Americans announced Tuesday that they will be leaving the presidential race behind.

The U.S. populace, which has participated in every national election since 1789, said that while the decision to abandon next year's race was difficult, recent events, such as disappointing victories by both Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani in regional straw polls, left them with no real choice.

So much for American democracy. It's over. The people have finally given up. They've had enough. And can you blame them?

Sure, it will be a hugely important election, perhaps one of the most important in American history. Just consider the issues, what the next president will face upon settling into the Oval Office: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, terrorism and the war on terror, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, China, Darfur, North Korea, global warming, social security, health care, the national debt, and so much else. With all this, and after eight disastrous years of Bush, America will require genuine statesmanship, a leader, a visionary who can also get things done -- a Democrat, I might add.

And yet it looks to be Clinton versus Giuliani, the triangulator versus the torturer.

No wonder the American people want out -- no wonder they're turning elsewhere, away from presidential politics.

Make sure to read the entirety of this essential article, a must-read if ever there was one.

It may be the most important thing you do all day.

Other than living your life.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The tapestry of leadership -- a digest

By Carol Gee

Bloggers have subjects to which they return again and again. Leadership is one of mine. I often write about leadership in the context of politics. Readers of this blog, from the United States and around the world, continue to be interested in the subject. It must be nearing election time. Today's post is a digest of the best ideas from my previous writings, chosen for interest, timeliness and current applicability.

What are the current leadership issues? Are these issues new to 2008, unique for the time, or are they the same ones that drove the other two elections in this century? Which of these pertain to the U.S. and which are more universal? Do readers in other countries want to learn about leadership by looking to the United States model? I raise these questions because I am not sure of the answers. I would be very interested to learn what others think.

In the meantime here are the links to my best previous posts on leadership. Each begins with a teaser phrase and summary, continues with the date and title of the post, and finishes with a quote:

  1. Compare and contrast: Our current president (OCP) continues to provide a perfect foil for how to be a disastrous leader. My most recent post put blogger examples, news stories and current candidate news up against BushWorld examples of "how not to do it." Wednesday, October 31, 2007 -- Leadership qualities, in no particular order -- Quote:

    We see our next national leaders parading through the news of the day. To select the best of the lot we will soon need to pay close attention to each of these people, since the election happens in the next few months. Some of us are beginning to narrow our choices; some are still resisting. Some bloggers are going public with endorsements; some have probably already made their pick, but are not yet telling. I am in the latter group.

    But I do have some leadership criteria. We need a smart principled person with a sense of history, and feet on the ground. . .The President of the United States must have a modicum of sanity. . . The President of the United States must uphold the Constitution. . .The President of the United States must have strong principles. . . The President of the United States must possess a modicum of intelligence.

  2. Tongue in cheek To-Do: This post pokes fun at the ineptitude being displayed by the White House during the early part of this year. It closes with information that remains pertinent for what is now almost the end of this year. Friday, March 23, 2007 -- Today's to-do's: TGIF for Our Current President. Quote:

    I highly recommend a recent "ideas" article by Warren Bennis and Thomas Z. Freedman from Politico titled, "Campaign 2008: The Anatomy of a Great Leader." To quote,
    Amid the horse-race-like coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign and its focus on topics such as electability and likability, it's worth considering which candidate would make the best leader and president. At the end of the day, voters won't be having a beer with the next president, but we will depend on him or her to be a great leader and deal with the daunting challenges of globalization and terrorism.

  3. The White House begins to clean house for the second half of its term: Power, influence and authority are the keys to leadership, according to management theory. This post concentrates on the multiple personnel changes within the current administration's intelligence and foreign affairs functions. Friday, January 05, 2007 -- Politics vs. leadership in foreign policy. Quote:

    Power, influence and authority are the keys to leadership, according to management theory. . . Politics put the Democrats in control of Congress as the new leaders. Now they must exercise power effectively if they are to influence the administration to change direction. Politics defeated the Republican leadership, diminishing their influence, and implicated the leader of the party, our current president (OCP). The American people demanded a new direction for the country in 2007-08, including its foreign affairs policies.

  4. Exploring questions about a variety of world leaders: "Each of these leaders are first or second in command in their nations . . . Haniya leads Hamas, Chavez leads Venezuela, al Hakim leads the Badr Brigade, al Malaki leads Iraq, Bush leads the U.S., Talibani leads Kurds, al Assad leads Syria, Abbas leads Fata, Siniora leads Lebanon, Nasrallah leads Hezbollah, Putin leads Russia, Ahmadinejad leads Iran, Blair leads the U.K., al Sadr leads a militia, Cheney leads neocons, etc." Wednesday, December 06, 2006 -- Who's in the lead? Quote: "Being THE DECIDER is the coveted power position. . . When leadership fails: Each man's personality is different but they can be grouped by psychological trait and style similarities when inappropriately exercising leadership."

  5. Democrats win the Fall elections; now what: Our hopes were high. Republicans had been defeated because of corruption and the conduct of the war in Iraq. This post focused on the idea of the "Servant-leader" as it might apply to new Democrats just elected to office. Monday, December 04, 2006 -- Leadership revisited. Quote:

    . . . On leadership - Readers of S/SW sometimes do blog searches on "leadership qualities," about which I have written in the past. Why is it a recurring subject of interest, very often to readers from abroad? Since my blog is so clearly political/progressive I speculate that it is because of the dearth of good leadership from the current Bush administration. The recent election of large numbers of Democrats to office in states and in the U.S. congress suggests that citizens want new kinds of public servants. Exit polls revealed that the war in Iraq (to more Democrats) and corruption (to more Republicans) were important issues to voters. They are demanding better from those they elect.

  6. The new national reality: What went so wrong for these key Republicans? Written shortly after the election this post explored what happened to several key Republican leaders, namely George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman. Friday, November 10, 2006 -- Failed Republican Leadership. Quote:

    . . . What is the new national reality? Tuesday's election results spoke about leadership. . . the legislative, has undergone fundamental change, with Democrats now leading at the national law-making level. Voters declared what they were against more than what they were for. They voted against a failed group of Republican leaders, starting at the top.

  7. Speculation that the next day's election might repudiate Republican leadership: This post explored what makes strong leadership in actuality, as opposed to the mistaken image of apparent strength. Stubbornness, intransigence, swagger, and bragadoccio are limiting to leaders, not enhancing. Monday, November 07, 2005 -- Voter anger. Quote: ". . . the current level of voter dissatisfaction might help Democrats in 2006."
  8. JFK School survey results: In addition to naming the best leaders the post explores what people thought about leadership in 2005. Wednesday, October 26, 2005 -- US News names America's Best Leaders. Uses David Gergen material. Quote: ". . . a recent JFK School survey says on what Americans think about their leaders." According to the survey, completed earlier that month:
    •Americans Are Highly Critical of the State of Leadership in the Country
    •Confidence in Specific Leadership Groups Is Mixed –Index Is Highest for
    Military, Medical and Educational Leaders; Lowest for the Press, Executive Branch, and Congress. In the middle are Religious and Non profit, Business, and Local or State government leaders.
    •Americans Most Often Look for Honesty and Integrity in Their Leaders
    •Americans See Themselves as Part of the Leadership Problem for Not
    Being Better Informed
    •Americans Have Some Optimism about the Future of American Leadership
    •Americans Feel the Country Will Be Better Off with More Women in
    Leadership Positions
    •Americans Have Reservations about Government’s Emergency Response
    •Older Americans Are the Most Critical of the Nation’s Leaders
    •Americans Often Respond to Leadership Issues along Partisan Lines.

  9. Google's favorite: This, my original post about leadership, is still the one most often returned by a Google or Yahoo! search on the subject. It includes a list of famous leaders, references about books on leadership, and some of the contrasts between managers and political leaders. Wednesday, October 12, 2005 -- Leadership qualities. A quote:

    . . . What qualities define good leaders? How deep is their need for recognition? How important are people to them? Who do you think about when the word 'leader' is used? Which of your childhood teachers inspired you, and why? Whose biographies did you as a young person? Whose now?

To restate my original questions -- What are the current leadership issues for today and for next year? Are these new and unique issues for the time, or are they the same ones that drove the previous two elections? Which of these pertain to the U.S. and which are more global? Do readers in other countries want to learn about leadership by looking to the United States model? I raise these questions because I am not sure of the answers. I would be very interested to learn what you think. Your comments will put valuable threads in my "work in progress."

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Want some syrup for your savior?

By Capt. Fogg

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."


Of course that doesn't apply to God's own efforts to show his immanence through the medium of rust or mildew stains or burn marks on grilled cheese sandwiches and pancakes. There's no prohibition against rendering unto eBay that which you'd like to make a buck on that I'm aware of either.

Current or recent eBay offerings include a wine-stain Jesus and something that purports to be Christ on a flapjack but looks more like an upside down cow's udder to me. Nearly anything parabola shaped seems to qualify for either Jesus or Mary.

Sometimes these things draw crowds of pilgrims the way phony relics used to in the time before the net. Sometimes, if they're small enough to put in a box, they draw bidders. But why people see Jesus in junk is a better question for Doctor Rorschach than for me; I'm more concerned that they vote.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Mukasey's choice

By Capt. Fogg

I'm interested to see how long it will be before we take the measure of the man Mukasey. He'll be sworn in today as Attorney General just as the Justice Department is reopening its internal investigation into the administration's warrantless (and perhaps limitless) surveillance program. The Office of Professional Responsibility has received the necessary security clearance to resume the investigation shut down by the Bush Administration in July 2006. Was waffling on the definition of torture sufficient payment to George or will he continue to stand between the king and the law? Will we really have an investigation at last?

I confess that I hope he surprises us and I confess that the howling diatribes against him as being a "Jew Supremicist" involved in the cover up of the "Zionist attack of 9/11" has something to do with my hatred of at least some of Mukasey's enemies, but I'm aware that it doesn't make Mukasey my friend. He does have an opportunity however, to restore independence to the AG's office and the Justice Department and I have another confession - I'm hoping for a miracle.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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By Carl

The Democrats seem to have
grown a set, but not in the way we might have hoped:

Senate Democrats might force Republicans to wage a filibuster if the GOP wants to block the latest Iraq withdrawal bill, aides and senators said Tuesday.

That could set the stage for a dramatic end-of-the-year partisan showdown, which Democrats hope will help them turn voter frustration with Congress and the stalemate over Iraq into anger with the Republican Party.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), the number two Democrat in the chamber, said a forced filibuster is “possible” and would “generate attention.”

“We want to go to the bill, and [Republicans] have to decide initially whether they want us to go to the bill,” Durbin said. “I wouldn’t call it theatrics.”

It takes real courage to force a vote or filibuster as a choice.

It takes even more courage to do it when it matters, when you first take office and when you have the people behind you, thinking you're going to effect the changes that you were elected for.

It's not courage to bait your opposition into making political grandstanding plays. That's gamesmanship and if we weren't talking about the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers in harm's way, fighting a fight that we see as unnecessary, then I'm all for it.

That's not the case here. The case here is that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have allowed the troops in Iraq to be played as pawns by the Republicans and by President Bush, and unwittingly, by the Democrats themselves.

That should never be the case. Democrats seemed to be afraid of taking a stand for peace, for troop withdrawal, because they'd appear to be playing with the lives of our troops, but that was a choice that was no choice: that appearance happens either way, and a good look in a mirror would have made that perfectly clear.

Maybe it's because Mrs. Pelosi doesn't have to shave every morning. Maybe that's why she didn't see that in her mirror. And in collapsing in the face of hints and allegations of "gamesmanship," she played our soldiers into the Liar's Poker hand that the Republicans had set up.

Too, Bush has shown no reluctance to carry the water for Republicans in Congress, and to
start using his veto stamp regularly.

Democrats needed to be out in front of the curve here, and they weren't, for whatever reason of internal dissension. Where in the hell was Howard Dean in all this, twisting arms to get Congresscritters in line? I know if I was DNC chairman, I'd be threatening primary contests like I was handing out Halloween candy. It's clear that Pelosi and Reid don't have the ear of all of their colleagues (Reid might be slightly ahead in this department, but then he was more moderate than Pelosi heading in). Dean needs to step up and step in, or face his own issues going into the most important election year in this generation, particularly if
Hillary Clinton is at the top of the ticket.

2008 is going to require message discipline, and given that the Democrats have been working to expand their appeal in red states, we're looking at a raucous caucus at the convention next year.

This is all the more reason why Democrats have to get it together, and start living up to the promises of 2006.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The impeachable ones

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Important numbers from Think Progress:

A new American Research Group poll finds that 55 percent of voters believe President Bush has "abused his powers" in a manner that rises "to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution," yet just 34 percent believe he should actually be impeached. Fifty-two percent say that Vice President Cheney has similarly abused his powers, with 43 percent supporting impeachment.

It won't be enough, not nearly enough, but hopefully, just hopefully, history will do what the majority of Americans are, as of now, unwilling to do regardless of their own views on the matter.

Which is to hold these constitutional abusers accountable for their actions.

Honestly, what more evidence is needed?

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By Michael J.W. Stickings

You can see the headline at Fox News, can't you? Martial theme music, elaborate graphic, perhaps a mushroom cloud emerging from an about-to-be-carved turkey, an all-American family looking on in horror, white to the core, manifest destiny come undone, exposed at last, the pioneers of American imperialism obliterated by the revisionist blamers.

Wait... what?

Yes, there is war here, there, and everywhere on the American cultural landscape -- and it ain't just Iraq and Afghanistan. No, it's Christmas and Easter and, yes, Thanksgiving.

So says Michelle Malkin. Which means it must be true.


Mademoiselle Malkin, crackpot extraordinaire, claims to be "all for truthful, historically accurate lessons about Thanksgiving" -- and that's really something, because she isn't for "truthful, historically accurate lessons" about anything else.

She just can't stand the "'diversity'-peddlers" -- you know, all that "guilt-mongering and institutional racism indoctrination," all that "Blame America" bullshit.

Oh. I see.

I don't much care for political correctness either, nor for historical revisionism, but one extreme is often as bad as the other, and the "Blame America" extreme -- and it is an extreme that does not represent most of those who are in some way critical of America's imperialism (for the critics of Thanksgiving are actually a tiny minority) -- is mirrored here by Malkin's extreme.

No, her extreme is much worse -- for her revisionism, the rewriting of history to whitewash America's bloody past, requires the willful avoidance of historical fact, actually, the denial of historical fact.

In this case, Malkin lambasts the Seattle school system for making the rather obvious point that Thanksgiving may not be such a joyous occasion, let alone a celebration, for Native Americans, that, you know, the treatment (genocide) of Native Americans by America's imperial colonialists, may be something of a sore spot.

"With so many holidays approaching," say Malkin's allegedly anti-American foes to their staff, "we want to again remind you that Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult time for many of our Native students." Is that not true?

Perhaps Malkin should ask Native Americans what they think. She quotes one, but is that one representative of Native opinion on this matter?

For Malkin, that hardly matters. Her point here is to try to score points against her "Blame America" strawmen -- not to achieve "the right balance," and certainly not to tell the truth about what actually happened, the bloody conquering of the continent at the expense of those who were here long before the European settlers got down to business.


There is no War on Thanksgiving. The "war" is a myth made up by conservatives, just like the "wars" on Christmas and Easter and the flag and whatever other sacred cows they trot out at their convenience. They need these fake wars, these battles in the culture wars that they alone are fighting. Without them -- without their little wars, without their myths, without their designated enemies -- what are they, and what is left?

It's Malkin, it's O'Reilly, it's Limbaugh, it's Hannity, it's Gibson, it's all the rest of that ilk -- pitting us against them, them against us, driving wedges into the soft underbelly of American politics.

Their followers may be ignorant fools, but they themselves feed off the wreckage.


Meanwhile, most Americans will be getting together with their families, eating turkey, and watching football. Oblivious to America's blood-stained history, oblivious to the cultural warmongering of the right.

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We interrupt this blog for a trivial report...

By Edward Copeland

I hate to waste the space of thoughtful commentary and analysis that we usually contribute here for something such as this, but it seems to me indicative of how low CNN has gone.

Perhaps it's just a slow news day (nothing going on in Pakistan or the Palestinian Territories right?) because the TV in our newsroom that has CNN on has just spent about 10 minutes talking about and showing a clip of Condoleezza Rice being pestered by a fly during an interview. At least they didn't call it breaking news.

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One word: "waterboarding"

By Carol Gee

. . . was the subject of 29,300 posts carried by my news aggregator Bloglines this morning. The word simply will not go away. In fact, someone I know dreamed about George Bush and waterboarding. It is very serious business when something in the news disturbs the sleep of perfectly normal people.

What is so disturbing about the practice of waterboarding being carried out by people in the name of the U.S. government? It is hard to put into words, but here are a few that come quickly to mind: It is flat wrong. It is un-American. It is stupid. It is illegal. It is uncivilized. It is counterproductive. And it is terribly destructive to the fabric of of our nation's illustrious history of freedom and justice.

I found even better words, however, in my Sunday paper, written by one of my favorite columnists, Joe Galloway, described by his newspaper this way:


General H. Norman Schwarzkopf has called Joseph L. Galloway, a military columnist for McClatchy Newspapers, "The finest combat correspondent of our generation — a soldier's reporter and a soldier's friend."

Galloway is the co-author, with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, of "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," a story of the first large-scale ground battle of the Vietnam War. The book was made into a movie of the same name. Galloway was portrayed in the movie by actor Barry Pepper.

He knows from whence he speaks --
McClatchy's Newspapers Joe Galloway, a Texan, seems very disturbed as evidenced by his most recent column. Dated (11/7/07), the author titled it simply, "Commentary: Is waterboarding torture -- Yes." To quote:

All of Judge Michael Mukasey’s artful dodging and word play to avoid acknowledging the obvious to the august members of Senate Judiciary Committee does nothing to change the fact.

When you hog-tie a human being, tilt him head down, stuff a rag in his mouth and over his nostrils and pour water onto the rag slowly and steadily to the point where his lungs fill with water and he's suffocating and drowning, that is torture.

Four decades ago in the field in Vietnam, I saw a suspected Viet Cong waterboarded by South Vietnamese Army troops. The American Army advisers who were attached to the Vietnamese unit turned their backs and walked away before the torture began. It was then a Vietnamese affair and something they couldn't be associated with.

Galloway goes on to write the most rational, succinct and passionate piece I have ever seen on the subject of waterboarding. I now realize what former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith (who rescinded the Justice Department's original torture memo) was talking about. In one of my previous posts, "Following the Rule of Law - - Part II," Goldsmith talked about what everyone involved was afraid of, actual prosecution. To quote further from Galloway,

Waterboarding is torture in the eyes of all civilized peoples, no matter how desperately President George W. Bush tries to rewrite the English language, with which he has only a passing familiarity, anyway. No matter how desperately his entire administration tries to redefine the word "torture" to cover the fact that not only have they acquiesced in its use, but they also have ordered its use.

The president, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their cronies and legal mouthpieces such as David Addington, John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales are doing all they can to avoid one day facing the bar of justice, at home or in The Hague, and being called to account for crimes against humanity.

They want a blank check pardon, and they'll continue searching for attorneys general and judges and justices and senators and members of Congress who'll hand them their stay-out-of-jail-free cards.

As they squirm and wriggle and lie and quibble and cut deals with senators, they claim that "harsh interrogation methods" are necessary to prevent another 9/11. But as terrified as they are by terrorists, they also fear that one day they may be treated no better than some fallen South American dictator or Cambodian despot or hapless Texas sheriff; that they might not be able to leave a guarded, gated compound in Dallas or Crawford, a ranch in New Mexico or the shores of Chesapeake Bay for fear of arrest and extradition.

Galloway's conclusion lays it out more clearly than I have seen written to date on the subject of waterboarding. Quote:

Now the Democrats, or some of them, are conspiring with them to seat an attorney general who will help facilitate the ever more frantic search for ex post facto immunity for their crimes. Shame on them! There’s such a thing as too loyal an opposition; too cowardly an opposition; too craven an opposition.

Waterboarding is torture. Decent people have acknowledged that for centuries. We sent Japanese war criminals to the gallows for using it. We sent a Texas sheriff to prison for using it. One day, an ex-president and those who helped him and those he ordered to torture fellow human beings may have to plea bargain for their lives and their freedom.

The one word for voters to ask presidential candidates should be, "How do you feel about waterboarding?" It is not a complicated or convoluted question. It is simple. And the answer should be simple. "Never again."


  1. "The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment inside the Bush Administration," by Jack Goldsmith
  2. Lapopessa's "A History of Waterboarding"
  3. "We were Soldiers Once . . . and Young," by Joe Galloway and Lt. Gen Hal Moore (USA-Ret.)

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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