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Friday, September 29, 2006

NOTE: I originally posted this late last night (September 28, 2006) over at Daily Kos with a cross-post at My Left Wing. I wasn't going to post it over here because it's really meta - for those of you not consumed by the progressive blogosphere, "meta" has to do with blogs and blogging without necessarily being about a universal issue. The diary was posted in response to another diary (linked below) imploring readers at Daily Kos and My Left Wing to calm down over the issue of the Torture Bill, passed yesterday without vitually any meaningful protest and without one rights-protecting amendment. What came out of me was pure rant. I posted it at 10:30pm EST last night and it remains on the dKos recommended list at this moment and has over 700 comments.

I decided that, although it's meta in that it's a response to another diary by another diarist, the topic is essential as well as universal so I'm cross-posting here.


(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and My Left Wing)

I won't.  My anger is righteous and I'm entitled to it.

Now let me say right up front: Not calming down doesn't mean "I'm abandoning the party" or "All Democrats can go fuck themselves", so all of you who want to hop on in here and and point your little judgmental fingers at me and accuse me of hand-wringing in the extreme can just keep on moving, because you're dropping your admonition in the wrong place.

But I will NOT calm the fuck down.

You know, it's about more than the torture bill - I know that much.  It's such a dusty, static-filled white-noise dominated clutter right now, though, I won't be able to list all the reasons why it is more.

I appreciate Thereisnospoon's recommended diary enjoining me to calm the fuck down.  For the record, I met spoon in person some months back and find that he's a wonderful and bright thinker, inspired writer, and dedicated activist.

But I couldn't disagree more with his argument.  I'm not saying that what he is arguing is wrong - What I'm saying is what the fuck kind of argument is "they were torturing anyway"?  What.  The.  Fuck?!

And do you know why, in part, that is the only argument left to Spoon by way of counterargument?  It's becuase we've rolled over so many goddamned times that it's become the FIRST course of action rather than the last gasp of salvation.  We are placed in a position where a fine thinker and writer such as Thereisnospoon is left only with "they were torturing anyway".

I'm sorry, Spoon, and all the Kossacks who think that I am hysterical or that I am making too much out of what amounts to public validation of long-standing private actions (torture).  But now, for however long, this act will be willfully and openly done in my name.  I will NOT calm down.

I wasn't asking for much, here.  You need to understand that.  I understand that a filibuster was not necessarily the best course of action and if you look back through my comments on the subject, you'll see that pushing for a filibuster was not among them.

What I was asking for was once - just once during this travesty that has been the Bush administration - that Dems get a fucking clue and realize that not winning doesn't mean they have to lose.  They lost today - they lost BIG TIME.  Not one amendment to that bill went through.  Not one.  And the thing is, the Dems can't stand there and say that they tried.  Because they really didn't.  Trying, in my book, would have included an effort to stand together, publicly, and clearly lay out their reasons for opposing the then-proposed legislation.  Not Harry Reid making a brief statement that no one in the press really paid attention to, let alone ran on cable news... Not Nancy Pelosi spending what little airtime they gave her arguing that she's not giving "aid and comfort" to the terrorists (and thereby legitimizing Hastert's outlandish statmeent in the first place).

They needed to pick one person - then line up all the other Dems behind them, and let that person talk about the press release they just handed to everyone on the steps of the Capitol.  And they should have done that weeks ago - and then done it again.  And again.  And THEN if they failed, they did their best.

Let me ask you something - would you, at this point, want any one of these people responsible for taking care of something that was a matter of life or death to you? Oh - we tried - well great, except now I'm DEAD.

I know this will wear off to a certain degree, but what the Dems did (or didn't do) to prevent this legislation or at least LOOK LIKE they wanted to prevent the legislation for Christ's sake pretty much killed my will to give a FLYING FUCKING SHIT.

I'll work for Dems - I have been, and I will do it.  I'll live with this impotent, disorganized pack we have and I'll even continue to support their re-election.  But when it's within my power and it's one of my Dems who let me down on this, I'm going to work to replace them with Dems that know what it means to represent a constitutuency.

Update [2006-9-28 23:22:31 by RenaRF]: If you're still not feeling calm on October 5th, why don't you join the nation-wide protests. CRome3 was kind enough to point out that there /will/ be protests at all and provided a link in the comments.

Update [2006-9-29 0:27:5 by RenaRF]: I am still livid. I will remain livid over this - did you ever have something happen to you where the anger never truly dissipated, only receded? That's what this is like.

Having said that. I want to thank each and every one of you who added something to the comments. This is one of the most respectful discussions I have seen here, particularly when the topic is so emotional, and you are each a testament to why this place is, at the end of the day, a great place. Even (and sometimes especially) when we disagree.

With that, I'm on the East coast, I have a job, and it's after midnight. Therefore I am off to bed. For a pissed-off, fitful sleep.

Update [2006-9-29 9:53:41 by RenaRF]: Wow. Although I didn't sleep a lot nor did I sleep well (I had a weird dream where I was in a lunch meeting shouting at Bush - huh), I was pretty surprised to see this diary still hanging out on the Rec list. Thanks to all of you - almost 200 new comments came in since I went to bed last night and I have been able to read about a 1/3 of them... so far, the excellent and respectful tone seems to have continued, and I thank you for that.

I have not calmed the fuck down, though. I was replying to a comment from RF in this thread and said the following, which I think is worth excerpting:

I haven't CTFD. I don't think that has to be a bad thing, RF. Essentially, I've done what people do every day as they gain experience with other people - they make judgments. They determine who is on their side and who is not, and who is working against them. The vast majority of those decisions and realizations do not involve a withdrawal from life or society or work - rather, they engender a different, more educated and savvy approach. That is precisely what we need. A canny awareness of the goal, to include remaking the Democratic party in the image of its members.

I will not CTFD. But I appreciate your comment.

And this is how I feel this morning. Uncalm, still pissed, but ready to do something useful with it.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 2:45 PM 7 comments
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and ePluribus Media)

I got an email today.  It was all about "white pride".  I got it from someone I know.  It was so... Jeez.  I don't even have a word for what it was.  It was so wrong on so many levels, that I decided (as challenged at the end of the email) to pass it on.  Only I added some commentary and factual clarification.

The email itself is in blockquotes below the fold.

Let me know what else I should add.

As I said in the intro to the diary, the email is chopped up (in order) and in the blockquotes.  My responses come after each point made by the emailer.

Someone finally said it.  How many are actually paying attention to this?

There are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, Native Americans, etc.  And then there are just Americans.

I'm paying attention.

You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction.  You Call me "White boy," "Cracker," "Honkey," "Whitey," "Caveman" ... and that's OK.

I don't really know how to respond to this.  I don't have this experience.  I literally can't remember being addressed in a way that singled out my race.  I have been addressed in a way that singled out my gender, but that's another story.

But when I call you, Nigger, Kike, Towel head, Sand-nigger, camel Jockey, Beaner, Gook, or Chink ... you call me a racist.

That would be, simply, because if you address another person in this fashion, you ARE a racist.  The same goes for the epithets directed to a white person above.  To characterize another person in terms that are largely considered profane, hurtful and reprehensible is to invoke racist language.  Sorry.

You say that whites commit a lot of violence against you, so why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live?

This is literally one of the most ridiculous and uneducated arguments I've ever heard.  I don't know about whites committing "a lot of violence" against you (presumably minorities, as in all non-whites), but I DO know that whether or not whites commit "a lot of violence" against minorities is totally separate from the fact that ghettos can be dangerous places to live.

I would further point out that ghettos are not delineated by color.  There are white ghettos (go to Appalachia, for starters), hispanic ghettos, black ghettos, etc. and so forth.  The common thread in a ghetto is poverty.  I'm frankly distressed that when you think of a ghetto, you think of ethnicity and not of poverty.  Perhaps its the long-standing tendency of the powerful to refer to the poor as being poor because of their color that has you confused - has it occurred to you that it's strange for you to think of the color of a ghetto first before you think of the tragedy of poverty?  Is it remotely possible that those who don't want to deal with the issue of poverty have made it an issue of race in an effort to divide and distract us?

You have the United Negro College Fund. You have Martin Luther King Day. You have Black History Month. You have Cesar Chavez Day. You have Yom Hashoah You have Ma'uled Al-Nabi You have the NAACP.  You have BET.

If we had WET (White Entertainment Television) ... we'd be racists.

Wow.  Where do I start.

Regarding the United Negro College Fund, you might visit this page on its website for a better understanding of its history.  Suffice it to say that the UNCF was founded in the 1940s to address DIRE inequities in access to higher education by people of color.  The reason there is not a United White College Fund, historically speaking, is because white children were not denied access in the way that black children were.  Plain and simple.  Further, you might enlighten yourself somewhat and understand what the UNCF does today, to include keeping black Universities solvent.  Oh - and the reason there ARE black Universities, at a very simple level, is because blacks were denied access to white Universities.

Regarding Martin Luther King Jr. Day, your argument is ridiculous.  We also have President's Day to commemorate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two white Presidents (as if there's been any other kind).  The designation of the Day is to commemorate a great American.  It's sad - you've totally missed one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s key points from his "I have a dream" speech - that people be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.  The designation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day was that principle in action - his character made him a great American and granted him a Day like other great Americans.

Regarding Black History Month - are you really that shallow?    Do you even know how or why it was established?  Black History Month was the progression of Negro History Week, which began in 1926.  Negro History Week was a response by prominent African American Carter G. Woodson to the misrepresentation of negroes in history.  It was an attempt to RE-EDUCATE with the correct facts.  It was also an effort, over time, to breed tolerance and unity.  It came out of everything good as far as intentions are concerned and, thankfully, continues to this day.  The fact that Black History month offends you is precisely the reason we need to have it.

You might also be interested to know what other celebratory months are out there:

- January: Bath Safety Month; Blood Donor Month; Careers in Cosmetology Month; Cervical Health Awareness Month; Eye Care Month; Oatmeal Month; to name a few (source)
- February: American Hearth Month; American History Month; Candy Month; Canned Foods Month; Friendship Month; Library Lovers Month; Potato Lovers Month; to name a few (source)
- March: Foot Health Month; Frozen Food Month; Irish-American Heritage Month; Social Worker's Month; Women's History Month; to name a few source)

I won't drag you through every month (if you want to see the list, click here and scroll down a bit to find the links).  Hopefully you see how ridiculous it is to be annoyed about the designation of a month or a day or a week or a year of observance.  In the next part of your email you talk about others related to religion and/or ethnicity, highlighting them as a bad thing.  I hope one of two things happens after you read this: first (and best) you don't EVER complain again about such ridiculous things; OR you apply your outrage equally and send an email about how Noodle Month is unfair to whites or how Potato Lovers month is unfair to Potato Haters, etc. and so forth.  Do you have nothing better to do?


If we had a White Pride Day ... you would call us racists.  

If we had White History Month ... we'd be racists.

If we had any organization for only whites to "advance" OUR lives ... we'd be racists.

We HAD "white pride" days.  They looked like this:

In fact, the White Pride movement that dominated American history was so strong that Southern whites, full of pride and believing that southern blacks didn't deserve to vote (despite the fact that the law guaranteed them this right), murdered in the name of white pride anyone who stood in their way:

This history is not all ancient, either.  If you Google the issue you'll see that "white pride" marches and demonstrations continue to this very day.

We're all just trying to survive your "white pride".

We have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Black Chamber of Commerce, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce.

Wonder who pays for that?

Well, in the case of the Chamber of Commerce, individual members pay for it.  This link to my local Chamber of Commerce swhows the dues.  This link (PDF) shows that the Black Chamber of Commerce is also paid for by member dues.  And this link for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce shows that it is paid for by membership dues.

Does that answer your question?

If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships you know we'd be racists. There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US, yet if there were "White colleges" THAT would be a racist college.

In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights. If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists.

You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you're not afraid to announce it. But when we announce our white pride you call us racists.

Perhaps you should refer to the discussion of the United Negro College Fund on the issue of the whites v. blacks and college access, admission and monies.  A little research may help you better understand that a huge chunk of American hisotry is all about the United White College Fund (and the United Male College Fund, for that matter).  I'm at a loss to understand why a private foundation to help achieve parity in college admissions is a bad thing.

I'm not sure where you are getting your information on the Million Man March, so I went to their website and saw this, excerpted from their Preamble:

"This historic event brought nearly two million men to the Nation's Capitol. It demonstrated the willingness of Black men to atone to God for our shortcomings as men, husbands and fathers; it demonstrated our willingness to reconcile differences at home, school, church, organizations and in the society in general; it demonstrated our willingness to accept responsibility to change our behavior and to strive to make our communities a more decent place to live."

My emphasis added.  I don't know where to begin to point out how roundly this contradicts other things you have said in your email.  Perhaps you should make even a small effort to understand what you write before you write it.

It also seems to me that being proud of one's heritage is a good thing.  I'm proud of my French-English-Irish-Cherokee-Mexican heritage.  I'm also proud to be an American.  If you are really so very affronted by the idea that you can't have a "white pride" demonstration, you need to blame those who came before you (see KKK picture and Mississippi Burning reference above) - not minorities.

You rob us, carjack us, and shoot at us. But, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or beats up a black drug-dealer running from the law and posing a threat to society ... you call him a racist.

This is wrong on so many levels I don't know where to begin or if I should even bother.  You say in this one statement that all minorities are criminals and violent thugs.  Do you know any black people?  How about Hispanic people?  Have you ever seen a white person charged with a crime?  The blanket you throw over this community is racist.  That's why it's called such.

I am proud.  But, you call me a racist.  Why is it that only whites can be racists?

Where do you live?  Again, I'll ask you: do you know anyone who is a minority and, if so, have you ever taken the time to talk to them about the subject?  I had a very dear friend in college who was very light-skinned.  She was bright, hard-working, and had made her way on merit.  She would frequnetly tell me about racism within the African American community related to the relative lightness or darkness of a person's skin.  As a white person, this had really never occurred to me and I was curious, so I asked her for examples.  She told of being invited to be a bridesmaid in a wedding for a very distant acquaintance.  The reason she was asked was because she was light skinned.  The bride's family wanted only light-skinned people in the wedding party.

I can't personally relate, being white and all.  But a simple conversation with someone who is non-white would help you understand that racism exists in all directions.  What a stupid thing to say.

There is nothing improper about this e-mail.

Let's see which of you are proud enough to send it on.

There are many things improper about the email.  For one, the logic used to make your "argument" is faulty at best and ridiculous at worst.  

What makes it almost funny, though, is that it's an email basically asserting that you are not a racist, that your "white pride" should not be construed as racism, yet is is laden with racist, separatist overtones.  Your outrage that there is a fund for (gasp) blacks to assist with college is one of those overtones.  Your digusting and blanket accusation that minorities  "...rob us, carjack us, and shoot at us" is offensive in the extreme.  

Your email is the very reason we need the NAACP, UNCF, Black History Month, the Black Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, etc.

Funny how that worked out.

Not only am I proud enough to send this on - I'm sane enough to correct you and to call you what you are.

A racist.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 12:33 PM 15 comments
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

(Originally post at Daily Kos. Also posted proudly at My Left WIng and ePluribus Media)

Do you ever have one of those proverbial lightbulb moments? Some place or time where you hear or see something that makes /so much/ sense you can't believe you missed its essence in the first place?

I just had one. And it came watching Keith Olbermann on /Countdown/. It wasn't one of his special comments - those are certainly gold - rather, this was an interview with Johnathan Turley on the subject of Powell, Warner, Graham, McCain, and Bush on the subject of torture and the Geneva Conventions. It was enlightening - so much so that I'm transcribing it below the fold.

By way of background, the interview is with Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional scholar and professor of law at George Washington University. All emphasis in the transcript is solely mine.

OLBERMANN: Secretary Powell, in defending his recent criticism of the Administration also said in the Washington Post:

"If you just look at how we are perceived in the world and the kind of criticism we have taken over Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and renditions, whether we believe it or not, people are now starting to question whether we're following our own high standards."

OLBERMANN: Do you think that on this issue, did Powell just raise the stakes again?

TURLEY: Well I think the most important thing is how uncharacteristic this is for Powell. I mean, he is the ultimate conservative player - the team player - this is so much not like him and I think that what motivates someone like Powell to come out like this is when he believes there is a real clear and present danger to the country. I mean, people don't realize that whatever benefits this Administration thinks it gets from torture, the costs are enormous. This is a very dangerous neighborhood to walk alone. And I think what is Powell is saying is that we need these people... We need allies if we're going to win this war. And we've become the greatest recruitment tool for terrorist organizations.

Now - I know that many here (inclouding me) have their own opinions about Powell (see BarbinMD's excellent diary from earlier today for that discussion). Stay with me here without going cross-eyed over Powell. Turley's comments evolve and expand from this point.

OLBERMANN: We haven't even addressed and for time's sake, now, there's study after study that indicates that torture presents falsely positive information. People will say anything they thinkt he torturer wants to hear. But... about again the layout between Bush and McCain: one question being asked a lot that I have not heard definitively answered anywhere... Is there reall a difference between what the President has proposed on this and what the McCain/Warner/Graham version? Are they both torture? Aren't they both redefining the Geneva Conventions to some degree?

TURLEY: Well you really hit, I think, the most salient aspect of this. Whatever comes out of a compromise, it does seem to be an effort to redefine the Geneva Conventions because otherwise, why are you doing this? You don't need to redefine the Geneva Conventions - you don't have to do anything with it. It's a treaty. We're a signatory. We've never had to do this before. We've gotten along just fine, as has the world, with the language of the Geneva Convention. If we make any effort at all to try to redefine it or tweak it or to amplify it, the world will see that as our effort to lawyer the Geneva Convention to try to create some type of loophole or excuse for conduct.

Well no shit, right? Only frankly - this is the first time I've heard the whole issue put so clearly. I'm glad he said it out loud.

OLBERMANN: You'll remember Mr. Gonzales' description of this five years ago as "quaint" - the Geneva Conventions or portions of it -

TURLEY: [laughs] Right -

OLBERMANN: - to some degree. Last Friday here you were telling us that some of the detainees from the secret CIA cells, when moved to Guantanamo, might have the opportunity in the immediate future to talk to the Red Cross about their own interrogations, is there anything more to the possibility that that's going to happen, which might explain the President's anger and his rush over this as having more to do with what his Administration has already sanctioned and not about what is yet to come?

TURLEY: It has all the indications that that is exactly what is happening. The Administration for years has conspicuously attempted to get things like waterboarding approved as non-torture. Waterboarding, when you convince someone they're going to drown by drowning them. At least to the point of death. And waterboarding is defined as torutre around the world.

Now obviously the Administration has not gotten that thus far. But there is a strong suspicious that we have indeed been engaging in torture. Remember, some of these people were captured when the White House had signed a memo that defined non-torture as anything short of organ failure. That they believed that as long as they didn't cause organ failure or death, they were not engaged in torture. That shocked the world.

So what has happened in the past in our name has many of us wondering. But there is a feeling - and I am one of those people that has it - that we're about to hear some accounts coming out that our President may have ordered American personnel to become torturers. And that is so serious it is almost beyond definition.

I'm shocked and I'm not. We all knew it was going on. We'd hear the Abu Ghraib stories and the rendition stories but nothing was ever concretely hung around the President's neck - yet Turley is saying that information is coming out (he thinks) that will show definitively that the President ordered it. Be still my heart.

Olbermann gets right to the heart of the issue:

OLBERMANN: How serious would that be for the President? Are there elements of the Constitution that refer to international treaties that make and American President violating international agreements like that liable or subject to criminal action within this country, let alone internationally?

TURLEY: It is a violation of both domestic and international law. But more importantly, torture is a moral under every major religion. That you cannot fight a moral war with immoral means. And if we're ready to embrace immoral means, if that's how we're going to fight this war, then we have lost. And no one will come to our aid. Wil will be alone. And that's what happens when you become - in the view of many - an enemy to the rule of law. And we cannot afford that to happen [sic].

In a diary I wrote yesterday, I tried, inartfully, to put my arms around the moral questions and the Golden Rule and commented on the irony and hypocrisy of our messianic President forgetting that one truism. But Turley - with that one response above - put it all in context. Why it's wrong. Why it matters. What will happen if we do this wrong thing. Where we'll be - and how alone we'll be as we stand there.

And we'll deserve it.

You can contact Mr. Turley by sending him an email. I've already written him thanking him for his frank and chilling assessment of what really matters on this issue.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 8:16 PM 5 comments
Monday, September 18, 2006

(Originally posted at Daily Kos.  Cross-posted at ePluribus Media and My Left Wing.)

I am sick to death of this ridiculous "clarification" issue regarding Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

For a President who has so wantonly and willfully hung his cowboy hat on his Christianity, one who makes vague and not-so-vague messianic references to our war against terrorism, and who has very recently indicated that he believes the United States is in its "third awakening", I find it utterly ridiculous that he hasn't referenced The Golden Rule.

Make the jump.

There is a great deal of information one can get about The Golden Rule when one runs a Google search.  I found a great synopsis of the Golden Rule as it appears in world religions from a particularly interesting site:

Christianity - All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:1)

Confucianism - Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. (Analects 12:2)

Buddhism - Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (Udana-Varga 5,1)

Hinduism - This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. (Mahabharata 5,1517)

Islam - No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. (Sunnah)

Judaism - What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. (Talmud, Shabbat 3id)

Taoism - Regard your neighbor's gain as your gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss. (Tai Shang Kan Yin P'ien)

Zoroastrianism - That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself. (Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5)

I've always understood the Christian teachings embodied in the Golden Rule, and although I am not a practicing anything, I do believe that it's a good way to live.  It is one of those truisms that is, in and of itself, SO true that is repeated throughout culture and religion regardless of era or demonimation.

Moreover, if you stop and reflect when making a decision that is difficult or one that doesn't come easily, "How would I feel if the shoe were on the other foot?", you arrive at a more carefully considered conclusion, whatever that conclusion may be.  You also get in the habit of doing something I think is very valuable: outcome analysis.  In this, you weigh your options and consider all the conceivable results of those options.  At least, then, once your decision is made you are less likely to be caught flat-footed with potential consequences.

So with this as a context, let's revisit Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions:

Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

My emphasis added.

I'm dragging you through this analysis for a reason.  

When you place Article 3 in the context of the Golden Rule, it is not in any way vague.  Not even remotely.  In today's Washington Post, Tom Malinowsky has an op-ed piece titled Call Cruelty What It Is.  It's a concise commentary on so-called "alternative" interrogation techniques, those which the Bush administration is seeking to ensure as reasonable.  Hence the need for "clarification" of the Geneva Conventions (where "clarification" is a euphamism for "covering one's ass in the event of international criminal charges").  Malinowski, who is the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, cites several authors and descriptions of the application of these "alternative" techniques.  One worth quoting is one by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin:

...who describes experiencing sleep deprivation in a Soviet prison in the 1940s: "In the head of the interrogated prisoner a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep, to sleep just a little, not to get up, to lie, to rest, to forget. . . . Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger or thirst are comparable with it. . . . I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them. He did not promise them their liberty. He promised them -- if they signed -- uninterrupted sleep!"

The Soviets understood that these methods were cruel. They were also honest with themselves about the purpose of such cruelty -- to brutalize their enemies and to extract false confessions, rather than truthful intelligence. By denying this, President Bush is not just misleading us. He appears to be deceiving himself.

So let's come back to prisoners in American custody, torture, "alternative" interrogation techniques, and The Golden Rule.  I would have hoped that our openly religious President would not need a mental exercise to apply the Golden Rule, but clearly I'm mistaken.  So he should begin by envisioning a young soldier, male or female, subjected to the techniques he thinks are necessary and which he feels need to be "clarified".  Let's take the use of the "cold cell" as an example, where a prisoner is stripped naked, doused in water, and then placed in a cell kept at about 50 degrees.  Is that a tactic Bush would like done unto our soldiers?  Is that acceptable treatment?  Or would he be outraged at the mental image of someone treating an American soldier in this fashion?

The Golden Rule is a good one, in my opinion.  You can be an atheist and agree with the idea of the Golden Rule.  It transcends religiosity - it's just common sense.  But because it's also associated with religion, and because Christianity is a religion that Bush seems hell-bent and determined to wave in everyone's face at every possible opportunity, it should be self-evident that all the "clarification" needed can be found in the President's most beloved book:  The Bible.  If you would not like to be waterboarded, you shouldn't condone the waterboarding of others.  If you would not like to be subjected to interrogation techniques that involve severe sleep deprivation, then you shouldn't do that to other people.  It doesn't matter that your enemy-du-jour has shown that they don't emply The Golden Rule in their tactics - YOU SHOULD.  If the fundamentalists have taught me anything through their involvement in politics during the last six years, it's that the rules set out in The Bible are not negotiable.  There are no exceptions.

It's a question of the Golden Rule and how that relates to the moral high ground and imperative in which we wrap our foreign policy.  It was a moral decision to remove Saddam Hussein.  It's a moral question of good vs. evil when discussing the subject of combating terrorism.  The beheading of American citizens and contractors and soldiers is a moral outrage.  

So how, then, can the President credibly argue that the technques he holds so dear to ensure our safety (cough) are morally conscionable?  I would argue that he would not like these things done unto him.  

A grade school student could answer this question of "clarity" vis-a-vis Article 3 armed only with the very sensible, morally defensible understanding of the Golden Rule.  I'm amazed that the media and other watchdog groups aren't distilling the issue to its simpliest articulation, and that the cries of "bullshit!" aren't louder and more concentrated.

In this, I think, Bush has shown his highest level of hypocrisy.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 10:33 AM 1 comments
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

(Cross-posted from Daily Kos. Also posted at My Left Wing, EPM, and Booman Tribune)

John Murtha just made a live statement on CNN (and other shows, I'm sure), that I found quite powerful.  I have transcribed the live coverage below the fold.  

Here is a link to the actual resolution he introduced today asking for Rumsfeld's resignation.

He is referencing as well a report as to military readiness that he has reviewed.  I will try to find a link and update the diary.

...non-deployed combat brigades, managed by the Army's Forces Command.  And the vast majority of them are rated the lowest readiness ratings.  The ratings are caused by severe equipment shortages.  

The situation facing the Army Guard and Reserve is comparatively worse.  Not currently mobilized, about 4/5ths received the lowest readiness ratings.  4/5ths.  The same is true for the Army Reserve.  Personnel shortage is the major reason behind the decline in the Guard and Reserve readiness shortages created, for the most part, by mobilization having [lapped] or personnel having been pulled from units to augment others.  So they're not going as a unit in many cases.  As a matter of fact, the Adjutent General of Pennsylvania says we can't send units any longer because of the constriction on the National Guard in Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania's probably the most deployed National Guard in the country - we have to send individuals to fill units.

As we come to expect, the US Army [is] embued with the whatever it takes spirit of commitment and hard work.  It's been given a mission, and it will complete that mission.  Try to complete that mission.  Yet it's becoming increasingly apparent the level of commitment has not been met by the Secretary of Defense and the other civilian officials charged with overseeing and assuring the well being of our military.  The mere fact that roughly 1/2 of the US Army is at the lowest level of military readiness speaks volumes in this regard.  

Perhaps most troubling to many Army senior uniformed leaders is the lack of national attention to the Army's plight.  To emphatically state that the global war on terror will last for years yet fail to even acknowledge, let alone take steps to address, the Army's readiness, equipment and personnel shortfalls is short-sighted at best.  At worst, it's unconscionable, because the future security deterrent power of the United States is dangerously at risk.  

Let me tell you - it's completely insensitive for the Secretary of Defense to talk to the people that he represents - the young troops - who are out in the field day after day in 120 degrees carrying 70 pounds on their back, and tell them we don't have a crystal ball.  They want answers.  They want to know - and of course the reason is we don't have enough troops to be deployed over and over again.  And to say that because they're volunteers shows a compelte insensitivity to the situation that these families go through and I go to the hospitals all the time.  And the thing that I worry about the most is the fact that the troops not only are in missions that they don't understand in many cases but also the future of the military.  

And I'm introducing a resolution today asking for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld not only for his past mistakes - he said the weapons of mass destruction - we know where they are - he said this war won't last six weeks, maybe six months - he said it would cost $50 billion dollars.  We sent troops into battle without the appropriate armored vests - I was the one that found the armored vest shortages when I went to Iraq.  So not only for his past mistakes, but for the future of the military and that's the thing that I worry about the most since I've spoken out - is the readiness.  We can talk about Iran and Iraq, and we can talk about North Korea - but if you don't have a strategic reserve, which we don't have now - and those troops, when they're being trained, they don't have the equipment to train, and so they shift equipment all over the place.  And then they go into a field where they get the equipment, but they aren't trained on the exact equipment they've used [sic].

Now going back to General Schoomaker's comments - one of the problems we had in that operation was that those helicopters they flew, the pilots were not familiar with them...

CNN ended its coverage here.

My emphasis added.  He speaks the truth, and with conviction, yet again.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 2:20 PM 1 comments
Friday, September 08, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing.)

The 5-year anniversary of 9/11 looms large for me.  I'm certain it looms large for everyone.  My thoughts about 9/11 are not restricted to annual anniversaries, though.  I don't really think a day passes where I don't think about it and in a very persosnal context.

There is fear that is invoked and then there is fear that is real.  Follow me after the fold as I try to sort through all of this.

I was reminiscing with my parents on Monday about 9/11.  They retired to South Carolina in 2000, after 40+ in the Washington DC area, where I still reside.  They were in town visiting for a few days before heading to the Amalfi Coast of Italy (more on that later) with friends for a 2 1/2 week vacation.  They had missed Bill Maher the previous Friday, so we watched it together when it replayed on Monday.  The anniversary of 9/11 was a subject on the show, and it turned into a subject for discussion post-show.

I work with the Federal Government - not for them - with them.  I'n a technology hack.  First it was software, and now it's services.  I have made my career on this since coming out of graduate school.  My mother blazed the trail - a high-powered and highly successful technology hack who built her career on doing business with the Federal government.  My father was a career civil servant with the Federal government.  You get the picture.

I was on my way downtown that morning.  I had a pretty critical presentation to give at a pretty high level in the US Department of the Treasury, whose headquarter offices are next to the White House.  Because I live in Northern Virginia along the Dulles corridor, I was inbound on Rt. 66 East when my husband called.  He was watching the Today show.  They were covering what looked to be a small plane that had crashed into one of the towers.  As he watched, with his toothbrush in his mouth, brushing away, another plane crashed into the second tower.

My cell phone rings - Mr. RenaRF: "I was watching Today about a small plane crash and the weirdest thing happened.  Another plane crashed into the Towers in New York."

Me (confused - I didn't know about the first plane and I was highly distracted trying to mentally prepare for the meeting):  "Weird.  I have to go.  Love you."  Click.

I didn't turn the news on or anything.  I was seriously thinking through each aspect of my upcoming presentation.  As I was on the highway driving through Arlington, my phone rang again.  This time the Caller ID indicated it was my office, also in Arlington.  It was a friend and co-worker.  I answered.

Friend: "I don't know where you're going, but if it's anywhere downtown, turn around and get out.  New York is being attacked.  The Pentagon has been attacked.  A bomb went off at the State Department and they say there are bombs at other buildings.  Do not go downtonw."

Me (still confused): "What the fuck is going on?"

Friend: "I don't really know, but whatever it is is bad.  Get out.  Call me tonight."  Click.

For those unfamiliar with the I-66 corridor heading into DC, there are several exits for Arlington and Rosslyn before you get to the exit for 110 (on which the Pentagon sits) and, beyond that, the Teddy Roosevelt (TR) Bridge to spill directly onto either E Street or Constititution Ave. in DC.  As my friend called, I was just coming up on the Rosslyn/Key Bridge (which takes you into Georgetown) exit.  I remember that as she said the word "Pentagon" I looked to the horizon and I saw smoke.  In that instant as well I remembered hearing a loud BOOOM some exits (5 min.) earlier ande thinking it was like the BOOOM you hear when builders are clearing large lots for construction with dynamite.  I figured in that moment that I had heard the plane hit.

I took the Rosslyn/Key Bridge exit and, because of how impossibly jammed traffic was going into Virginia, I headed towards DC on Key Bridge with the idea that I would turn away from downtown onto Canal Road and travel back into Northern Virginia via the Chain Bridge.  

As I'm on Key Bridge, I look to my right.  Smoke.  Fire.  Below and slightly behind me on GW Parkway, countless emergency vehicles are speeding towards the Pentagon.  I can hear them behind me in Rosslyn also.  I almost had to stop the car to throw up.

I managed to get on Canal Road, which was totally jammed.  I surely had the radio on to the local news channel by that point, but I had it slightly turned down.  I was trying to contact Mr. RenaRF.  I was trying to call the high school where my stepson was in class, because it was less than a mile from the CIA and the rumors were rife that other potential targets were being secured.  I was trying to call my parents, who I knew would be frantically freaked because they knew I had been sweating that pending presentation so they knew I was slated to be downtown.

All circuits are busy.

I did get through.  Mr. RenaRF fine.  Staying in the burbs.  Stepson fine - school has released him on my call and he is headed home.  Parents fine - relieved that I was heading out of the city.

Here's where my parents' story overlaps.  They had been playing tennis that morning down in South Carolina.  They hadn't heard a thing and they were listening to CDs in their car.  They retired young (at 55) and were living off of their investments, many of which were tied to the stock market.  The stock market had been struggling... When they got home, they turned on the TV to check the market and saw that it was closed.  They couldn't imagine why it would be closed - so they switched to CNN minutes before the first tower fell.

Minutes after that I got through to them:

Me: "Mom.  I'm ok.  Everyone here is OK.  I'm stuck in traffic but I'm headed home."

Mom: "We just got home and I tried to call you a few minutes ago.  I can't believe this."

Me: "Mom, I saw the Pentagon.  It was awful.  I heard about the World Trade Centers.  Maybe the only good thing was that the planes hit kind of high and they have a chance to save the people below the crash.  I hope they can get them out."

Mom: "Rena... One of the towers just collapsed.  It's gone."

Me: [Bursts into tears]  Click.

I was completely... I don't know if there's a word for it... But I was so devastated by that news.  I cried.  Hard.  And for a while.  My head hurt.  I had to pee.  I was inching forward in traffic.

I came upon Fletcher's Boat House - a nice area along the C&O Canal that rents boats and bikes and has beautiful walking paths.  And a public restroom.  I had to stop - I made the left and pulled in.  The restrooms were mercifully open (they aren't always) and I used them.

So here I am.  I'm in a business suit.  My eyes are puffy.  I come out of the restrooms and notice how quiet it is around me.  It took me a moment - but then it hits me.  There's no air traffic.  Huh.  As I stand there, I see other people in shorts and walking shoes coming to the main section of the park, smiling - laughing - talking with each other.  They don't know.  All I can think is: "Should I break their hearts?"  I don't.  Let them have their peace.

That day is really personal to me by virtue of proximity.    I think no matter where you are, 9/11 was personal for each person in their own way and experience.

And that's what bugs me about the fear.

Real Fear vs. Manufactured Fear

What would you think of a person who has a child, and that child is desperately afraid of the water.  When the child acts up or won't behave (in other words, when the child's being a child), the parent threatens to hold them under water.  Pretty bad, I think.  It's totally manipulative and preys on the fears, rational or not, that the child holds.  It's really despicable.

Can you say that the fear manufactured by those in power is any different?  I can't.

I'm already fearful with good reason - and it's real fear.  I live in Washington DC.  I spend a lot of time there in high profile places with high value (from a terrorist's perspective) Federal agencies.  When I'm able, I take the Metro (those familiar with the DC Metro know that it's not exactly accessible to large portions of the burbs).  I watch people swipe their SmartTrip cards and get on the Metro with suitcases (it goes to National Airport) and briefcases and backpacks.  There are no metal detectors.  When I board the Metro, I do so with the full knowledge that this might be my unlucky day.  There's really nothing that has been done (or even proposed) to help make the DC Metro safer.  And let's face it: Washington DC is and will remain a high value symbolic target for terrorists.

That's real fear.  It's real fear when you immediately notify authorities (whoever is closest) when a bag is abandoned on the Metro or in front of a building or in the Dulles Airport.  It's ever-present.  It's livable, but it's always there and it's tied to real-life concerns.

So it really fucking pisses me off when the terror alert level is raised, right before and election, based on information that is four years old.

It really fucking pisses me off to hear George W. Bush break his radio silence on the subject of Bin Laden when he's done nothing to apprehend him.

It really fucking pises me off to have Bin Laden shoved at me solely for the purpose of trying to maintain political control 60 days before another election.

It really fucking pisses me off to hear speech after speech that talks simultaneously about "winning the war on terror" while also saying "they want to kill us".  I know they want to kill us.

It really fucking pisses me off when a POTUS says stupid shit like "bring it on" when he was IN A FUCKING SCHOOL in Florida when all hell broke loose around me.

It really fucking pisses me off when the administration has SO little depth such that they allow prisoners to be tortured and further allow that torture and its images to become public, further inflaming extremists who already want to kill me.

It really fucking pisses me off when I hear that container security isn't going anywhere.  And when I hear that border security (from the perspective of terrorists slipping through, having nothing to do with immigration) has gotten worse.  And when I hear an exhausted TSA screener at LAX tell me that they are woefully understaffed and overworked.  And when I hear that politics are still the driving factor around information sharing in the intelligence community, meaning information isn't shared.

It really fucking pisses me off that Bush had to be totally pressured to form the 9/11 commission and pisses me off even more that not very many of his stupporters thought badly of him for his resistance.

And it really fucking pisses me off that one of the last thing I said to my parents before they left for the airport to go to Italy was "Pretend you're Canadian".  And I meant it.

I could add to this list ad infinitum, but this diary is already too long (if you made it this far, thanks for reading).

I don't need the manufactured fear, Mr. Bush.  Because every time you try to manufacture it, I can only think about the real and valid fear that lives with me every day and that you haven't succeeded in removing either through policy or interdiction.  And just like the parent who cocntrols the child by exacerbating their worst fears, you are a heartless bully with absolutely no conscience in your willingness to try to scare me further.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 12:28 PM 2 comments