Right Thinking From The Left Coast
Freedom of Press is limited to those who own one - H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Leading the World
by Lee

During the whole torture debate I made the point, numerous times, that it was imperative that the US strictly adhere to the rules it agrees to abide by, and thus lead the world by example.  Well, it looks like we’re leading by example all right.

Several governments around the world have tried to rebut criticism of how they handle detainees by claiming that they are only following the U.S. example in the war on terror, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Monday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, said that when he criticizes governments for their questionable treatment of detainees, they respond by telling him that that if the United States does something, it must be all right. He would not name any countries except for Jordan.

“The United States has been the pioneer, if you wish, of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world,” Nowak told reporters. “Today, many other governments are kind of saying, ‘But why are you criticizing us, we are not doing something different than what the United States is doing.’”

Nowak said that because of its prominence, the United States has a greater responsibility to uphold international standards for its prisoners so other nations do not use it as an excuse to justify their own behavior.

Before Bush the US used to point at these scumbag countries (most of whom are our enemies) and rightfully say that they were not living up to international standards of civilized behavior.  Now, thanks to Bush, these same scumbag countries are using the United States as an example for their continued depravity.  We’ve totally lost any moral high ground we used to have.  And this, my friends, is going to be the real Bush legacy.  Mark my words, US soldiers will die because of these policies, and what will we have obtained in return?

Posted by Lee on 10/24/06 at 10:38 AM in War on Terror/Axis of Evil  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Death to the Fabulous
by Lee

And here we see how the Religion of Peace™ operates inside a secular, pluralistic democracy.

Manchester’s leading Imam has confirmed that he thinks the execution of sexually active gay men is justified, reports Outrage. Mr. Arshad Misbahi, who is based at the Manchester Central Mosque, confirmed his views in a conversation to Dr John Casson, a local psychotherapist.

Dr Casson said: “I asked him if the execution of gay Muslims in Iran and Iraq was an acceptable punishment in Sharia law, or the result of culture, not religion. He told me that in a true Islamic state, such punishments were part of Islam: if the person had had a trial, at which four witnesses testified that they had seen the actual homosexual acts.”

“I asked him what would be the British Muslim view? He repeated that in an Islamic state these punishments were justified. They might result in the deaths of thousands but if this deterred millions from having sex, and spreading disease, then it was worthwhile to protect the wider community.”

“I checked again that this was not a matter of tradition, culture or local prejudice. ‘No,’ he said, ‘It is part of the central tenets of Islam: that sex outside marriage is forbidden; this is stated in the Koran and the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had stated that these punishments were due to such behaviours.’”

Honestly, I wonder how many of the rabid fundies we have in this country would, in their heart of hearts, agree with the sentiment that killing a few thousand queers would be justified if it wiped out gay sex.  Probably more than we would like to admit.

Posted by Lee on 10/24/06 at 08:36 AM in The Religion of Peace™  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Watching it Evolve
by Lee

Here’s a fascinating expose of the evolution of torture techniques at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib.  (Emphasis mine)

In interviews with MSNBC.com — the first time they have spoken publicly — former senior law enforcement agents described their attempts to stop the abusive interrogations. The agents of the Pentagon’s Criminal Investigation Task Force, working to build legal cases against suspected terrorists, said they objected to coercive tactics used by a separate team of intelligence interrogators soon after Guantanamo’s prison camp opened in early 2002. They ultimately carried their battle up to the office of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who approved the more aggressive techniques to be used on al-Qahtani and others.

Although they believed the abusive techniques were probably illegal, the Pentagon cops said their objection was practical. They argued that abusive interrogations were not likely to produce truthful information, either for preventing more al-Qaida attacks or prosecuting terrorists.

And they described their disappointment when military prosecutors told them not to worry about making a criminal case against al-Qahtani, the suspected “20th hijacker” of Sept. 11, because what had been done to him would prevent him from ever being put on trial.

Remember when I said that junior enlisted personnel were acting under implicit, not explicit, orders to mistreat prisoners, and as a result they’re now paying for it like criminals?  Here’s how that happened.

By this time, law enforcement interrogators said, they had seen signs of coercive or abusive techniques being tried by the young, mostly inexperienced, military intelligence personnel: a cinder block left in the interrogation box, apparently used to hold a detainee in a stress position, called short shackling; a detainee wrapped from head to toe in duct tape. These techniques were not in the interrogation bible, the Army Field Manual.

The al-Qahtani plan went much further. The law enforcement agents began to hear a new term, SERE, an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. SERE training is provided to U.S. Special Forces and other military personnel to prepare them to withstand torture if they become prisoners of war. It includes mocking of their religious beliefs, sexual taunting, and a technique called water-boarding, which induces water through the nose to make a prisoner feel like he’s drowning.

Intelligence interrogators had the idea to “reverse-engineer” SERE, to use its techniques to pry information out of the suspected al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists. Pentagon e-mails seen by MSNBC.com show that at least a half dozen military intelligence personnel from Guantanamo, including at least one medical adviser, went to Fort Bragg, N.C., on Sept. 16-20, 2002, for SERE training. It was an experiment, apparently not unlike what the CIA had been trying on the few high-value detainees kept at secret locations.

The law enforcement agents, who were collecting intelligence information but primarily focused on developing cases for Pentagon prosecutors, say they questioned whether SERE tactics would produce useful information.

“It was the latest gimmick,” said Michael Gelles, the chief psychologist for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and an adviser to the law enforcement agents at Guantanamo. “The problem was these techniques were taught to harden you against interrogation.”

Gelles said he called Col. Morgan Banks, the director of the Psychological Applications Directorate at Fort Bragg. “I said it was nuts,” Gelles recalls, “and told him we were concerned about this. He said it was used to train for resistance, and would not work as an interrogation approach. But they still teach it.” That September of 2002, Col. Mallow and Fallon ordered their agents in writing not to engage in coercive interrogations, particularly using SERE techniques.

Read the whole thing.  It very much substantiates a lot of what I’ve been saying for the past six months.

Posted by Lee on 10/24/06 at 08:22 AM in War on Terror/Axis of Evil  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Turning to Bill
by Lee

How desperate are things for some Republicans?  This guy has come up with a novel strategy.

With this election so tight, one Republican congressman is turning to Bill Clinton for help.

Republican U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw who represents South Florida is airing a new radio ad highlighting his success with Bill Clinton in an apparent bid to attract independent voters to his tight re-election campaign for the House of Representatives.

Shaw faces Florida State Sen. Ron Klein, a liberal Democrat, in the campaign to represent District 22 in Florida, which covers portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The Shaw-Klein race has been one of the most costly in the nation, and some observers say it may help decide who controls Congress. Shaw’s congressional district has voted for both John Kerry and Al Gore in recent presidential elections.

The incumbent Shaw, who has gone out of his way to assert his independence from President George W. Bush, claims in his ad that “the greatest moments of the Clinton years came when Democrats and Republicans worked together.” Shaw takes credit for being able to cross party lines to get things done in Congress, including the 1996 Welfare Reform Act the congressman authored. Bill Clinton signed the bill into law.

The radio commercial by the Shaw campaign was released in advance of Clinton’s fund-raising visit last Friday to the region on behalf of Klein. It is not meant to confuse voters, Shaw spokesperson Gail Gitcho tells The Miami Herald, but rather attempts to show “that Congressman Shaw has been very successful in a bipartisan environment.”

Sad, isn’t it, that in an attempt to cling to power the GOP has had to distance itself so far from the president.

Posted by Lee on 10/24/06 at 08:05 AM in Election 2006  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Monday, October 23, 2006

Lessons to be Learned
by Lee

This is just sad all around.

A sailor pleaded guilty Monday to abducting and killing a Marine corporal he thought had been involved in a gang rape. The rape turned out to be a lie, but the truth surfaced too late.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Cooper Jackson, 23, pleaded guilty Monday to premeditated murder, kidnapping, impersonating a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent and obstruction of justice in connection with the death of Cpl. Justin L. Huff, 23.
In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to spare him a possible death sentence.

Federal agents had testified at his Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury investigation, that Jackson had been fooled into falling in love with a woman who called herself Samantha and made up a story about being raped by servicemen.

“Samantha” turned out to be Ashley Elrod, a 22-year-old hotel clerk on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, who testified that she lied about being raped. She said she “might have” told Jackson that one of the Marines was named Huff or Huffman, and she said Jackson called her after Huff was killed. Elrod has not been charged.

During his court-martial, Jackson told the Navy judge how he posed as an NCIS agent and took Huff to North Carolina to get information about the purported rape. He said he then slit Huff’s throat and buried the body to avoid being caught.
“I’d broken several laws and I had a missing Marine with me,” Jackson said at his hearing Monday. “Quite frankly, I was scared of the consequences of what would happen, of being caught, more so than I was of the consequences of taking his life.”

What a shame.  This young man acted based on something as unreliable as rumor and innuendo.  As a result, a Marine is dead, a sailor is going to prison, and there are two families completely crushed.  Bad things can and do happen when you base your actions on unreliable information, even when your actions are done with the best of intentions.  If the sailor had used the system put in place to deal with this sort affair (the legal system) the police, using established techniques, could have investigated the issue and determined whether or not the Marine was guilty.  Once this determination was made, action could then be taken in a reasonable and justifiable manner.  It was the desire for retribution at the expense of rationality which caused the outcome in this case. 

The lesson here is clear.  We have systems and procedures in place for a reason: to protect the innocent and punish the guilty.  Bad things can and do happen when, in the heat of the moment, cool heads do not prevail and rash decisions are made.  Sometimes these decisions can continue to affect lives long after the principal players are gone.  When you act you need to do everything possible to make sure you’re justified in doing so, and taking the word of a tortured prisoner dirty slut isn’t going to provide that justification if it turns out to be wrong.

Posted by Lee on 10/23/06 at 11:06 PM in Deep Thoughts  • (1) TrackbacksPermalink

Sinner’s Swing
by Lee

Here’s a great example of liberal media spin in action.  The headline:  “Republicans losing crucial swing voters: poll.”

Independents, a key swing voter group, overwhelmingly favor Democrats to take over the U.S. House of Representatives in November 7 elections and strongly back Democrats on the major issues facing Americans, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Monday.

The independent voters surveyed said they plan to support Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans by a roughly 2-to-1 margin — 59 percent to 31 percent — the largest gap in the poll this year, The Washington Post said.

Okay, sounds bad.  Now, take a look at the third paragraph.

Forty-five percent said it would be good if Democrats recaptured the House majority, 10 percent said it would not and the rest said it would not matter, the newspaper reported.

Of independent voters, 55% of them are either pro-gop or ambivalent, and ambivalent people usually don’t vote.  In other words, the headline should have been “After all the incompetence and corruption of the GOP, the Democrats still can’t get past the halfway mark with swing voters.”

Oh, that liberal media.

Posted by Lee on 10/23/06 at 09:44 PM in The Press Machine  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Talking to God
by Lee

For those religious people out there, allow me to try and illustrate the issue of the “talking to God” thing, and why it bothers so many people.  Over at Reason, Ronald Bailey quotes author Sam Harris.

“The President of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.”

That’s brilliant, and oh-so true.  Religion is one thing.  Believing that some kind of supernatural deity is actually having a conversation with you on current topics is another entirely.  From my vantage point, talking to God is no more or less crazy than talking to God through your hairdryer.

It’s kinda like AA.  You have to believe that only a “higher power” can restore you to sanity.  What if you decided that your higher power was your toaster?  Would anyone really believe that the toaster was what got you sober?

So it is with a president, a cabinet, and a military leadership all of whom are convinced they have a direct line to the Almighty.  It’s frightening, and I think the proof of how well this mindset works can be seen in the results of our actions the last few years.  If God told Bush to invade Iraq, then God either wanted it to fail or he’s got one hell of a sense of humor.  Kinda like when Pat Robertson ran for president. 

Bush said God spoke to him about Iraq.  To paraphrase an old Sam Kinison joke, what if Bush said that God told him to go outside and check the tire pressure on one of the presidential limos?  Would this be an example of a devout believer following the instructions of a divine and benevolent God?  Or would it be some crazy old bastard who hears voices?

Posted by Lee on 10/23/06 at 01:07 PM in Deep Thoughts  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Why We’re Losing
by Lee

Because we rely too much on divine intervention and less on pesky things like strategy and tactics and plans.

The top US general defended the leadership of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying it is inspired by God.

“He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country,” said Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Rumsfeld is “a man whose patriotism focus, energy, drive, is exceeded by no one else I know ... quite simply, he works harder than anybody else in our building,” Pace said at a ceremony at the Southern Command (Southcom) in Miami.

If you want to know how sad this is, take a look at the transcript to this SNL sketch.  When the military strategy of the United States sounds like a fucking comedy routine, is it any wonder we’re having the problems we are?

At least the Islamists pray to a warrior God.  Christians pray to a pacifist.  Why are military staffing and planning decisions being made by a Jewish carpenter who lived two thousand years ago?  Next time we invade a country, let’s have an actual plan beforehand.  Then, if Jesus decides to show up and help out, all the better.  But we should be prepared to win on our own, even without the help of the Lord.

Posted by Lee on 10/23/06 at 10:14 AM in War on Terror/Axis of Evil  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

The Course
by Lee

July 10, 2003

The United States “will stay the course” in Iraq, President Bush said today in Gaberone, Botswana, following a meeting with President Festus Gontebanye Mogae.

Commending Mogae on his service and leadership, Bush said he appreciates his “commitment to democracy and freedom, to rule of law and transparency.”

“We’ve got a great friend in the war on terror,” Bush said. “We both understand that we must work together to share intelligence, to cut off money, to forever deny terrorists a chance to plot and plan and hurt those of us who love freedom.”

April 13, 2004

I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy. Look, this is hard work. It’s hard to advance freedom in a country that has been strangled by tyranny. And, yet, we must stay the course, because the end result is in our nation’s interest.

… And my message today to those in Iraq is: We’ll stay the course; we’ll complete the job. My message to our troops is: We will stay the course and complete the job and you’ll have what you need.

October 22, 2006

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the government format to your standards right now?

BUSH: The government is — look, I think the guy’s been in office for about four months, Maliki. In my judgment, Maliki has got what it takes to lead a unity government.

But what you’re seeing is a new form of government actually beginning to evolve after years of tyranny.

I’m patient. I’m not patient forever. And I’m not patient with dawdling. But I recognize the degree of difficulty of the task, and therefore, say to the American people, we won’t cut and run.

On the other hand, we’ll constantly adjust our strategy to…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Exactly what I wanted to ask you about, because James Baker said that he’s looking for something between cut and run…

BUSH: Cut and run and.

STEPHANOPOULOS: … and stay the course.

BUSH: Well, listen, we’ve never been stay the course, George. We have been — we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we’re constantly adjusting the tactics, constantly.

Posted by Lee on 10/23/06 at 10:02 AM in Politics  • (2) TrackbacksPermalink

Carpet Bombing
by Lee

A popular liberal website is organizing a Googlebomb just in time for the 2006 elections.  Petty and stupid, but maybe effective.  Ever the trooper, John Hawkins has organized his own.

So, what’s to be done? Well, in my opinion, we should simply fight fire with fire. That’s why I put together a list of key races for Republican blogs to Googlebomb. How do you do that? Simply view source, grab the HTML below, and post it on your blog or in a forum that you frequent. Then, once Google picks it up, the links on these candidates should rocket up charts and help even the playing field for the GOP in the key races.

I’m all about a level playing field, so count me in.
Posted by Lee on 10/23/06 at 08:31 AM in Election 2006  • (1) TrackbacksPermalink

Less Predictable
by Lee

Over at The Moderate Voice, Joe Gandelman had some very nice things to say about this blog.

Perhaps this is TMV’s personal bias. They say blogs are like talk radio. TMV doesn’t listen to the “rip and read” talking points talk show hosts of the left and right (not for too long, at least). He makes no bones about the fact that he enjoys listening to the more unpredictable types, regardless of ideology: Ed Schultz (progressive talker but not Air America), Michael Savage (conservative talker), John and Ken on KFI 640 (right leaning independents) in Los Angeles and the screechingly funny progressive talker (but not Air America) Stephanie Miller.

There ARE blogs that are also less predictable — even if you don’t agree with them. Right Thinking is one of them. And — believe it or not — there are quite a few on the left, center and right. If you just look.

I listen to John and Ken out here all the time, they’re great.  Thanks, Joe!

Posted by Lee on 10/23/06 at 08:27 AM in Tooting My Own Horn  • (2) TrackbacksPermalink

No Plan
by Lee

Here’s the “duh” headline of the day:  Analysts: Democratic control of Congress would ramp up pressure to end Iraq war.  There’s only one problem with that.  The Democrats have even less of a plan than the Republicans did.

The lack of a specific position on Iraq has let Democrats avoid criticism of their own ideas, and kept the campaign season focus on Bush’s war policies. It also has allowed them to postpone what could be the painful task of crafting a unified plan on what is a divisive question: What would they do if they were in charge?

What is clear is that if Democrats take over Congress or even one of its chambers, they likely would feel emboldened to take on Bush over Iraq. A strong Democratic victory, coupled with mounting U.S. casualties in a war that has no end in sight, could also push more Republicans to abandon the president on the issue, hastening his slide into lame duck status and the lack of influence that goes with it.

“I believe the election that’s coming up is a referendum on a number of administration policies, including Iraq,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who would head the Senate Armed Services Committee should his party win control of that chamber. If Democrats win votes, he added, “it would reinforce the feeling of many Republicans that ... the policies of this administration are a significant reason for it.”

Most Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a potential 2008 presidential candidate, and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, say they agree with Bush that setting a withdrawal timetable would be disastrous because it could leave a security vacuum that terrorists would fill.

But even before Election Day, some Republicans have been critical of the war, including Warner, who has said a change in course may be necessary if the security situation does not improve soon.

Levin said Democrats are not considering a stronger tack yet, such as forcing through legislation demanding the president withdraw troops, because it might not be necessary. A unified voice in Congress would put substantial pressure on the president, he said.

So, in other words, their main goal is to seize power, then worry about what to do next.  Which, ironically, eerily parallels the Bush administration’s plan when it went into Iraq in the first place.

Posted by Lee on 10/23/06 at 08:21 AM in Election 2006  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Baaaaaang de Dutchie on de Left Hand Side
by Lee

The Dutch, frequent contributors to UN peacekeeping missions, seem to have come up with a novel solution to the problem of raping the local women which seems to crop up every time the blue helmets go anywhere.

A Dutch mayor has raised eyebrows by backing the idea of sending prostitutes to accompany Dutch troops on foreign missions.

“The army must consider ways its soldiers can let off steam,” Annemarie Jorritsma, mayor of the town of Almere in central Netherlands and a member of the ruling VVD liberals, told Dutch television.

“There was once the suggestion that a few prostitutes should accompany troops on missions. I think that is something we should talk about,” she said, adding that the prostitutes would keep soldiers from turning to local women.

Her comments have drawn a mixed response in the Netherlands, renowned for its liberal prostitution laws.

“I don’t think my wife would find it a good idea,” Wim van den Burg, a spokesman for the military service trade union told Dutch newspaper Volkskrant on Monday.

Andre van Dorst of sex industry organisation VER told the same paper: “I can see something in this, though it’s a very strange idea.”

Something tells me that the Netherlands come up with a lot of strange ideas.

Posted by Lee on 10/23/06 at 08:17 AM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cutting Crew
by Lee

When you come to live in America, you leave this sort of thing in whatever shithole country you moved here from.

A father stands accused of the unthinkable: brutally cutting his daughter’s genitals.

The girl was only 2.

onday, activists from all over the world will be focused on a Gwinnett County courtroom as Khalid Adem, accused of cruelty to a child and aggravated battery for allegedly circumcising his daughter, goes on trial.

Adem, 30, was charged with aggravated battery and cruelty to children more than three years ago and, if convicted, could face 40 years in prison. He was born in Ethiopia, where circumcision is a common procedure for young girls.

Adem’s trial may be a landmark case for health and human rights activists fighting against the African custom they call genital mutilation. But for those close to the victim, this trial is about vindication and healing for a little girl who was forced to endure unbearable pain.

… Police say Adem circumcised his daughter with scissors in his Duluth apartment, while someone else held the girl’s legs.

Authorities said the circumcision occurred sometime in 2001 but the mother didn’t discover it until two years later. The mother told police she learned about it while arguing with Adem about female circumcision. The mother told police that she told Adem she didn’t want that to happen to their daughter, but Adem implied the circumcision had already occurred.

The mother went to a doctor who confirmed that the girl had been circumcised. The girl then told Gwinnett authorities that her father had done it. He was arrested in March 2003.

Fucking savage.  It just makes me ill.

Posted by Lee on 10/22/06 at 09:22 PM in The Religion of Peace™  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Hosers and Harpers
by Lee

It’s a slow news day up in the Great White North.  The headline of this article is, I shit you not, “Teenage politico shares name with prime minister.” That’s right, folks.  Some teenage kid who is involved in the student government at his school has the same name as the prime minister.  Stop the presses.

Beyond sharing the same name and an interest in politics, this Stephen Harper—17 years old and the student body president at Malvern Collegiate Institute in Toronto—has precious little else in common with the man who lives at 24 Sussex Drive.

Even before he moved north from Iowa with his father about a year ago, the young Harper knew what he was in for—and ever since, he has had the same reaction from everyone he’s met.

“Some of my friends thought it was funny that there was a political guy in Canada who had the same name as I did, so they cut out the article and they gave it to me for my birthday,’’ Harper says in an interview.

Then when he got to Toronto and introduced himself, everyone else found it funny, too.

“First, people would look at me as if I was kidding, and then after people realized that I wasn’t kidding, they all kind of got a chuckle out of it,’’ he says.

“People referred to me as the prime minister.’’

But wait, there’s more!  He’s an American living in Canada, which will inevitably lead to this.

He loves Canada—the people, the health care system, the relative lack of crime—and is reluctant to leave.

Ah, the Canadian healthcare system.  The Canucks mention their goddamn healthcare system the way that John Kerry mentioned Vietnam during the election campaign.  It gets brought up continually, even in situations where it isn’t appropriate, just because it gives them a warm and fuzzy glow to think about it.  To Canadians, their healthcare system is like putting on your favorite pair of Levi’s right out of the dryer.  It’s a way that they can mitigate the collective inferiority complex they have developed from living next door to a superpower.  (Come on, Canadians, you know it’s true.)

I’m honestly surprised that the article didn’t mention the War of 1812.  My Canadian friends all seem to bring that one up, that loyalist forces from Canada managed to sack Washington DC.  “Steven loves Canada—the healthcare system, the strip bars which show vagina, the way everyone in Toronto is from Jamaica, the weed from Vancouver, and the way we burned the White House in 1812.  That’s what we Canucks are all aboot.”

Posted by Lee on 10/22/06 at 08:40 PM in Those Wacky Canadians  • (2) TrackbacksPermalink
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