Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, December 18, 2004
Know Your War

You're not going to be seeing these in the mainstream media, but they all need to be seen.

U.S. bombing of Sha'ab market, Baghdad, April 2003

A Najafi man wanders the rubbled streets of Najaf after the siege

Iraq Uncensored

(found via Mat)
2:15 PM ::
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First, They Came For The Muslims...

In a study to determine how much the public fears terrorism, almost half of respondents polled nationally said they believe the U.S. government should -- in some way -- curtail civil liberties for Muslim Americans, according to a new survey released today (Dec. 17) by Cornell University.

About 27 percent of respondents said that all Muslim Americans should be required to register their location with the federal government, and 26 percent said they think that mosques should be closely monitored by U.S. law enforcement agencies. Twenty-nine percent agreed that undercover law enforcement agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations, in order to keep tabs on their activities and fund raising. About 22 percent said the federal government should profile citizens as potential threats based on the fact that they are Muslim or have Middle Eastern heritage. In all, about 44 percent said they believe that some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans.

Conversely, 48 percent of respondents nationally said they do not believe that civil liberties for Muslim Americans should be restricted.


The survey also showed a correlation between television news-viewing habits, a respondent's fear level and attitudes toward restrictions on civil liberties for all Americans. Respondents who paid a lot of attention to television news were more likely to favor restrictions on civil liberties, such as greater power for the government to monitor the Internet. Respondents who paid less attention to television news were less likely to support such measures. "The more attention paid to television news, the more you fear terrorism, and you are more likely to favor restrictions on civil liberties," says Nisbet.


So now we know... half of the citizenry of the United States is willing to suspend the constitution for some Americans; thus, half of US citizens are fundamentally anti-American. And it ain't the half that usually gets that label thrown at it.

In further news:

27% of respondents thought Muslim-owned or -run businesses should be marked as such, and that all Muslims should be required to identify themselves by wearing an armband with a crescent moon on it.

15% of respondents thought all Muslims should be forced to live in confined districts, or "ghettos".

8% of respondents thought Muslims should be moved into "work camps."

3% of respondents thought all Muslims should be wiped off the face of the earth, wherever they live... ein volk, ein reich, ein Dubya!

PS: The question will doubtless be asked: am I comparing tv-news-watching, church-going Republicans to the Nazis? And to paraphrase the most reasonable response to that question I've heard so far, it's not that they're like the Nazis, it's that they aren't different enough.
12:03 AM ::
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Friday, December 17, 2004
This Asshole Has To Go

Yes, I'm talking about Rumsfeld. Don't get me wrong, Kerik was apparently a complete and utter scumbag by anyone's standards (see TPM for every gory little detail), but Rumsfeld is the fucking Queen Bitch Big Kahuna Major Fuckwad Scumbag.

He sends our troops into battle unprepared, with no exit plan. He dismisses them condescendingly when they ask -- not once but twice -- why they still lack sufficient armor 18 months after they arrived. He presides over both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and now it appear that he very likely did specifically condone the entire ugly scenario:
The documents also show that officers from the CIA, the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency lodged "heated" objections to the abusive methods of interrogation used by the military, denouncing them in previously secret memoranda as not only unethical but useless and destructive.

In the files released by the government, FBI officials with special expertise in counterterrorism and interrogation techniques recorded their ongoing debate with Army officers about the harsh, coercive techniques authorized by the Pentagon. They were as concerned about the efficacy of those methods -- which they believe often produce poor intelligence -- as with possible violations of law and regulations. But the commanders overseeing the military interrogations simply dismissed the sharp warnings of the law enforcement and intelligence officers.


The e-mail goes on to recall how, during the questioning of one prisoner, the Pentagon interrogators wanted to "pursue expeditiously their methods" to "get more out of him ... We were given a so-called deadline to use our traditional methods."

Scott Horton, a New York lawyer and president of the International League for Human Rights, has spent months investigating the role Bush administration officials played in the torture scandal. He says there is mounting evidence -- including the May 10 FBI e-mail -- that strongly suggests that Rumsfeld and his top intelligence aides were directly responsible for the wholesale abandonment of legal and ethical norms as well as international treaty obligations. Now that Republican senators and neoconservative ideologues are publicly turning their backs on the defense secretary, perhaps even he may someday be held accountable for this disgraceful stain on the honor of the U.S. armed forces.


I ask every Republican reading this: exactly what kind of administration is your guy running? How do you justify your support of these failed little men in their great big suits? Hell, even Trent fucking Lott is saying he doesn't have any faith in Rummy... when that rat's headed for the water, you know the ship's on its way down.

"I'm not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld," Lott, R-Mississippi, told the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday morning. "I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers."

Oh yeah? Well where the hell were you six months ago? Twelve months ago? Twenty-one months ago, back when 1303 soldiers were still alive? Why didn't you mention something about this before, and what good is your vague disapproval supposed to do us now?

Here's my official prediction, recorded for posterity: Rumsfeld will be out within the year. As Bush's second, scandal-crippled term progresses to whatever nasty end awaits it, and the evidence of widespread, systematic abuse and torture in our assorted territorial holdings continues to mount, the Bush administration will spit him out like a maggoty grape, blame everything on him, do everything their feeble, devious little minds can concieve of to put some distance between him and them... and it will all be in vain. If you thought the Kerik fiasco was sickening/embarrassing/funny as hell, the Rumsfeld disaster is going to have you laughing till you puke.

God, I hate this administration.
1:01 AM ::
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Thursday, December 16, 2004
If We Cannot Be Honest With Ourselves...

Juan Cole posted yesterday about an actual war-crimes suit pending in Germany against the United States:

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association has filed suit in Germany against Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of 4 Iraqis who allege they were mistreated by American troops. A number of other high-ranking US officials are also named. AFP writes:
' The groups that filed the complaint said they had chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity. It also makes military or civilian commanders who fail to prevent their subordinates from committing such acts liable. '

(found via Denny)

He notes that the Pentagon seems to be responding to the threat of a lawsuit very seriously -- especially, I would say, considering how disdainful it has generally been towards international legal bodies. He wonders whether the threat of the lawsuit might not have something to do with the risk of an investigation or "discovery process."

I understand that nobody likes to have the label "war criminals" thrown at our country; it's an exceedinly ugly term, and one that we rightly attach to the very worst crimes ever committed. But there still remains the disquieting fact that, the more we look into the ways in which we have conducted ourselves in the WoT, the more founded the question becomes -- is the reigning administration guilty of war crimes?

I have to say, as much as I would prefer to live in a country that has not been convicted of war crimes, I cannot help but think that this is something that we will ultimately be forced to clear up in the eyes of the world. I fundamentally do not trust this administration to be honest, to permit others to be honest, nor even to allow the question to be genuinely and openly considered. And I, for one, want to know what's been going on in the various holding pens and jurisdiction-less prisons we administer; I think the American people deserve an honest answer, as ugly as that answer might prove to be. And if we have to go to Germany to find out the reality, then I'm for going to Germany.

There is an irony -- or maybe it would be better called a kind of poetic justice -- that we might find ourselves being judged for war crimes by Germany. If one thing has become apparent to me during the Bush administration, it is that the abused can all too easily become the abuser; perhaps the other side of that coin is that the guilty can eventually become the just.
4:37 PM ::
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Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave

It's getting more confusing by the minute, isn't it? I mean, Canada now has legal medical pot and legal gay marriage and universal health care and no known terrorist enemies and a relatively successful multiparty political system. They also have, according to U.N.'s Human Development Index, one of the highest qualities of life in the world. All coupled with a dramatically reduced rate of gun violence and far better gun-control legislation than the U.S., despite having the exact same per capita rate of gun ownership and gun-sport enthusiasm.

What the hell? How is this possible? Why aren't they scared to death like whiny red-state Americans? Why don't they want to kill each other along with anything that might threaten their access to televised hockey and cheap beer and yummy poutine?

Aren't they aware of what's happening in the world? Don't they know they are openly hated for their freedoms and their cafes and their vinegared french fries? Aren't they human, fer Chrissakes? Oh, red states. How confused and irritated you must be.

(SF Gate)
1:57 PM ::
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Bill's Birthday

Bill who? Bill Hicks.

The world is like a ride at an amusement park. It goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, "hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..." And we... kill those people. Ha ha "Shut him up." "We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real." It's just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. Jesus murdered; Martin Luther King murdered; Malcolm X murdered; Gandhi murdered; John Lennon murdered; Reagan.... wounded. But it doesn't matter because: It's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love.

The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defences each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

He was one of the great Americans... he'd probably be appalled to have that said about him, but that doesn't make it less true. And if you don't know Bill yet, well, allow me to introduce you.

Bill Hicks had to die for our sins.
NOW is when Bill Hicks should be touring.
NOW is when a loving loudmouth should be harping on human progress amidst human hell.
NOW is when Bill Hicks could've led the revolution incarnate.

2:01 AM ::
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Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Damn Activist Judges

I mean, seriously, for fuck's sake...

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - A judge refused to delay a trial Tuesday when an attorney objected to his wearing a judicial robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered on the front in gold.

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan showed up Monday at his Covington County courtroom in southern Alabama wearing the robe. Attorneys who try cases at the courthouse said they had not seen him wearing it before. The commandments were described as being big enough to read by anyone near the judge.


McKathan told The Associated Press that he believes the Ten Commandments represent the truth "and you can't divorce the law from the truth. ... The Ten Commandments can help a judge know the difference between right and wrong."

He said he doesn't believe the commandments on his robe would have an adverse effect on jurors.

"I had a choice of several sizes of letters. I purposely chose a size that would not be in anybody's face," he said.


Such a favor this fair-minded judge does for us all... wearing the ten commandments on her his robe in only small, modest gold letters. Just as well, a judge will be much easier to carry out of a courthouse than a ten-ton block of marble.

PS: observant readers will notice that I haven't said anything about Ohio as yet... but don't think I'm not paying attention. For now, I would only say this: visualize a grandy jury.
2:51 PM ::
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Tuesday, December 14, 2004
How Many? How Many More?

You know things are taking a turn for the worse when it becomes hard to figure out how many soldiers were killed on any given day. Was it as many as seven? As few as two? Are these the same that died on Sunday -- or was it Monday? can't keep pace; it seems to generally take a day or two to definitively catch up. On the other end of the spectrum, Today In Iraq throws every report onto the table, but has a higher chance of over-estimating.

The current daily death rate (for our side) stands at 2.86, making it one of the highest since the end of "major combat operations." (That phrase was funny for a while, now it's just painful.) If it continues -- and it's actually been climbing the last few days -- this month will stand in the top four or five deadliest months.

And that, obviously, doesn't even consider injuries. I haven't said much about the Rumsfeld/armor issues (I did leave a comment on a conservative blog, which I later returned to find deleted), but I tend to think of it this way: Rummy must be a big fan of horrible war injuries, because otherwise we could have a lot less of this happening (warning: not for the faint of heart -- but everyone who supported this war should be forced to look at it, for hours if necessary.)
3:48 PM ::
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Back By Popular Demand

I'm getting a lot of clicks today regarding this image:

The Bush administration, where the men wear the kneepads.

Since it had crawled off the page, I thought I'd pull it back. Gotta pander to the masses, y'know.

PS: props to Rev. Day-Bu for originally twigging me to the image.

Update: For everyone who wonders if this image is really real... yes, it is. And it's old, too.

Update 2: Okay, maybe it is, and maybe it's not. (Which is to say, it's not.)
3:15 PM ::
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Monday, December 13, 2004
I'm A Dork

So, I got up reeeeeally early this morning and got myself together to go to the DMV. My license expired and I was about a week overdue to get it renewed; it had to be done, even though going to the DMV is like a short stint in purgatory at the best of times. I figured Monday morning would be relatively light -- and it was. I can confidently recommend Monday at about 10 AM as an ideal time to go; there are exactly fuck-all people there at that time.

It took all of two minutes to get from the door to the counter; there was only one guy waiting for a friend to finish his written exam for his first license. I told the lady behind the counter that I needed to renew and was a little late. She took my license and looked at it for a minute, and said:

"This doesn't expire until December 2005."


So I'm an idiot, so what?
11:32 AM ::
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This Hole Gets Deeper

Have you seen the American body count in Iraq lately? It's not pretty. Seven were killed yesterday alone.

Today marks one year since Saddam was dragged from his hole -- just one in a series of turned corners that have made no difference. Since that day, nearly 900 troops have been killed.

Who's going to drag us out of our hole?

PS: You've got to be shitting me. (And they say there's no draft coming... ha!)

1:04 AM ::
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Sunday, December 12, 2004
Things I Miss From England, #1

I miss A4 paper.

I'm picky about my stationery; I don't like to write with or on just any old thing. I have a leather pencil case in my bag at all times, stocked with everything from gel pens to fluid-ink rollerballs to cartridge-fed fountain pens, and even a wooden stylus with a set of brass nibs, just to ensure that I have the appropriate tool to hand when the urge or need to write something arises. I also keep at least two notebooks with me at all times -- I'm particularly fond of Moleskine journals 'cause they feel nice and they hold up much better to the chaos inside my bag than most.

This has been true since I was fairly young, and while there are few things more satisfying than a virgin sheet of paper, I always felt there was something awkward about the paper I had available. Standard American paper is 8 1/2 inches wide by 11 inches long (roughly 21.5 cm by 28 cm), so oddly square-ish. Legal pads, which are 3 inches longer (and too long for use away from a table), are only a partial improvement, and suffer because it's hard to find any that aren't both ugly and cheap.

So when I got to London and found that the most commonly-available paper was A4 -- long enough to give you space to change your train of thought several times without having to cross yourself or squeeze your writing at the margins; wide enough to accomodate two columns (or three if you write really small) -- I believed I was home at last. A4 felt natural, it felt like someone had actually put some thought into it. Maybe there are people in the world who prefer 8.5 x 11, but if there are, I don't think I want to meet them. Philistines.

Anyway, because I just feel like it, here are a couple of sample pages from my old film school A4 notebook. (Click the images for a larger version... and no, I don't remember what any of this was about.)

9:21 PM ::
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