Wednesday, November 29, 2006

middle America...?

Throwing stones from the top of your rock, thinking no one can see
The secrets you hide behind your southern hospitality...

On the strip the kids get lit so they can have a real good time...
Come Sunday they can just take their pick from the crucifix skyline

Very nice, ladies.


Monday, November 27, 2006

abuse your illusion

Here’s another ex-girlfriend segue, though this particular relationship wasn’t horrible or traumatic. Actually, it was nice for the most part, and she’s a good, decent human being that I still have a lot of respect for. (Unfortunately, it did become the first evidence/casualty of The Danny Relationship Pattern. But I’ll get into that another time.)

Anyway, the girlfriend was a devout Buddhist. I’ve always found Buddhism fascinating (still’s the one “religious” philosophy that resonates at least partially with me). She gave me some books to read and taught me a little about it. In turn, I joined her on many occasions in chanting, meetings with her local group, and the very occasional “service” at the Dallas whatever-it’s-called Center over in Oak Lawn.

(Digression Time: It was at the last service I attended that I mentally ran screaming from this group in particular and the practice altogether. I have seriously negative opinions about religion – not about the concept of being religious [I’m actually quite envious of that], but of organized religion and the dogma and group dynamic that are associated with it. I feel the same about most other “ism’s,” for that matter [Ferris Bueller was right]. It just became apparent to me that this group and the larger, worldwide group to which they belong, were entirely too “religious” for my taste. At some point, though, I will get back into reading and exploring the concepts again because Buddhism is quite a respectable and honorable value system. Now back to the story.)

I mention this because one of the stupidest music-related comments I’ve ever heard was made at one of the Buddhist group’s meetings. I forget the part of the conversation that eventually led up to this nugget, but there was this one woman who was talking about somebody listening to very loud and/or aggressive music in his or her car. And she said something to the effect of, “How can anyone consider themself a happy person if they listen to such angry music?”

My immediate reaction was somewhere around, “Okay, you’re an idiot, lady. So shut the fuck up.” Though, I didn’t say it aloud, of course. But as you can tell from the fact that I still think about it to this day, my internal commentary was not enough. The more I thought about it, the more annoyed it made me. You might be thinking, “Perhaps you’re proving her point...?” And I can see why you would, given the evidence: I listen to loud and/or angry music quite often, I am not widely considered to be the happiest person in the world (but nor am I the unhappiest), there’s that look on my face that I mentioned before, and, obviously, if one random comment can crawl up my ass and stay there for years, perhaps I have some trouble just, you know...letting things go.

The evidence is convincing, yes. However, it’s also circumstantial and totally irrelevant to this case. Because the reason her comment was so mind-bogglingly dumb...okay, well, there are a lot of reasons why it was dumb. I guess the reason I found it most offensive, though, was that it implied that anger has no place in art. I mean, if angry music makes someone an angry person, wouldn’t angry movies, television, literature or painting do the same?

To me, that’s exactly what she was saying...that anger is not a proper inspiration for art, or at least not a motivation that should be encouraged or rewarded. But, god, can you imagine the works of art that we would not have the privilege to experience if anger hadn’t provoked creative people into expressing themselves? (You know, I started to list a few examples, but I literally cannot think of a single artist in any medium who hasn’t created works at least partially inspired by anger...)

Anger is a necessary - and unavoidable - member of the mental entourage that includes happiness, lust, envy, shame, pride, boredom, loneliness, sadness, reverence, etc. If your idea of enlightenment means that you think you can be somehow cured of feeling something that every human being on this planet experiences on a shuffling, rotating basis...well, I think you’re going to end up disappointed. (Which is another unavoidable emotional necessity, by the way.)

Was she suggesting that she was a completely happy person? That she never had angry thoughts or emotions? (Come to think of it, she did always kinda act like her volume knob was permanently set to three or something in a weirdly robotic way...) If she’s that much of a walking smiley-faced automaton, she’d make a damn good candidate for some goofy religious cult (no offense intended). Or the Republican Party (okay, that was on purpose).

The truth of the matter is what she probably meant to say was, “God, that shit is obnoxious.” Which is fine. But I’d be willing to bet she enjoys Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” for example. Who doesn’t? It’s a fantastic song. It’s also one hella angry song. It just so happens that the pissed off words being sung are to a melody that doesn’t betray much of the lyrical discord.

So why am I bringing this subject up, anyway?

Well, mostly it’s because I’m bummed that a band I truly love – who communicated various forms of anger, aggression, angst, and other dark shit that starts with “a” as well as almost anyone ever has – has ceased to exist. True, they still exist as far as the name goes. But that’s just a formality, as far as I’m concerned. Actually, this article pretty much sums where they’re at now (musically speaking, as it’s a couple days old)...

...The Trail of Dead were absolutely ferocious at times, both on record and live. Probably the best thing about them was their ability to walk a tight-rope between chaos and serenity...some moments of just total thrash and other moments of truly breathtaking, almost symphonic music (occasionally at the same time). And they did it unlike any other band I’ve heard. (Sonic Youth comes closest, but they’ve never been quite so deliberate about it.) Not to mention that they made you have to think about where you wanted them arranged on your alphabetized CD shelf (“A” or “T”...hmmm)...

I was pretty disappointed when Neil Busch, their bass player, quit the band a couple years ago, since many of my favorite Trail of Dead songs were written (or at least sung) by him. He cited health issues or some such at the time. In hindsight, it might have been an increasingly controlling ego that was making him sick.

Next came the release of a record called “Worlds Apart.” It was underwhelming at best. But more than that, it reminded me exactly of what the music started sounding like when Billy Corgan became a complete egomaniac, decided he was Smashing Pumpkins, and started releasing mostly unlistenable, self-important crap. That’s what the bulk of that Trail of Dead record (and almost everything after “Siamese Dream”) was...a self-indulgent jerk-off. I had hoped “Worlds Apart” would be an isolated episode of experimentation or something. But now that I’ve heard parts of all the songs on the new record...nope. It’s precisely what I feared: Conrad Keely has become Billy Corgan. Wonderful.

Of course, I can’t confirm my theory that the Trail of Dead have become Conrad’s vanity project, but that’s certainly what it sounds like (musically) to me. He is an enormously talented person who’s written some amazing music. He’s also an incredibly good visual artist (all the Trail of Dead album covers and art direction were his, and he recently created the album cover for fellow Austin band The Sword)...just in case there were any folks who didn’t feel inadequate enough. But it’s one thing to know you’re bursting at the seams with talent...that’s fine. It’s when you begin to think you’re the only talent that you have a problem and can destroy whatever made you great to begin with. (Just ask the Guns and Roses guys.)

And so – just like that – that gloriously singular ability to make anger sound so beautiful is gone. Damn.

So...into lala-land that last Trail of Dead album goes. And I won’t be buying the new one, obviously. Guess I’ll have to pick a new Favorite Texas Band. I’d choose the Baptist Generals or the Damnations in a heartbeat if they both weren’t so...whatever the opposite of prolific is. In the meantime, I will be accepting applications.

R.I.P., A.Y.W.K.U.B.T.T.O.D...

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It ain’t nucular, but it’s a start...

I need to see if I can find anything that explains what all was done to get the impeachment ball rolling back after Watergate went down. (If anyone else has some free time to devote to research, it would be greatly appreciated as I am slammed at work...) Because if this motherfucker hasn’t done anything worthy of impeachment to this point, then we may as well do away with the part of the constitution that gives us the right to yank people out of office. Seriously. I don’t know what else to say that hasn’t already been said, but in the meantime, please read this very intriguing and tantalizing (and short) article...

US v. Bush, et al.

It’s actually quite beautiful to see all that spelled out without a bunch of hyperbole alongside. So if the folks from the polyester era can do it, why can’t we...?

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Sunday, November 26, 2006


Prison for Anti-Nuke Clowns, U.S. WMDs Protected

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a slightly morbid fascination and curiosity about the locations of secret nuclear missile silos inside the United States. I’d heard that many of them were hidden not only in very rural areas, but also in not-so-rural places…the latter sites chosen because they were so invisible in a hide-in-plain-site kind of way.

Whenever I take road trips, I’ll find myself on occasion looking at section of geography that looks a bit abnormal...a little pond in a spot that seems ill-suited for it; a small hill or mound in an otherwise flat area; single-streetlight towns with abandoned buildings or lots...and I’ll wonder to myself: You suppose...?

About a year ago, I noticed dozens of sites in rural South Carolina that looked perfect for my missile silo fantasies. And I don’t mean “fantasies” in a positive way, of course. I’ll just see what looks like a suitable site to me and imagine whether the ground there could open up, followed by the nose of a missile slowly rising to launch position. Or a pond exploding with a sudden thrash as a warhead blasted through with a blinding burst and deafening roar, gone in a split-second to god-knows-where to vaporize god-knows-what or whom. And where could all the silos possibly be? Are they in every state in the U.S.? Are there people living near or on top of them who don’t even know about them? I think there’s little doubt that the answer to the last question must be “yes.”

I still think about those scenarios even though the Cold War has been “over” for two decades. But I think about it these days with more of a sense of dread than I can ever recall. Mostly because of the current administration’s desire to resuscitate a cold war with a new, improved nuclear stockpile and a new arms race with whoever is willing to compete. It seems less “what if” than “when” to my mind.

Needless to say, this article caught my attention immediately. I’ve read and re-read the story with mixed emotions every time. My simple conclusion is that it is one of horribly misplaced priorities. On the one hand, few would probably argue with the motives of those charged and sentenced. On the other hand, though, few would also argue that while aggressive protests or political/moral statements are understandable and well-intentioned, you simply cannot carry out those actions without expecting serious consequences. The dangers of breaking into and physically altering a nuclear missile silo shouldn’t need to be explained. These guys could have, in theory, caused the very catastrophe they wish to eliminate.

I guess it leaves me wondering…Couldn’t the government have taken the motives, histories and current activities of these guys into consideration and just given them probation? Their hearts were certainly in the right place, even if their methods could be questioned. And the net result, when you put all circumstances aside as the author does at the end of the article, is that peace activists are going to jail while the ultimate in WMDs remain protected by the government. I know it’s not that simple, but it still makes me sad...

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Thursday, November 23, 2006


Some years back, I had a conversation with an ex-girlfriend that has always stuck with me. For one reason, because the relationship with that particular girlfriend was far and away the most traumatizing I’ve ever had (and not just in bad ways...though mostly in bad ways) and I still have issues with regard to recovering from the time we were together and the time of the split. And for another reason, which was that the conversation – well, it wasn’t so much a conversation as it was some commentary she was giving me – stung pretty good at the time. And still stings a little. Much like the relationship itself. (Some scientists and other intellectuals of note have theorized that the relationship/demise in question may in fact be at the root of my relationship problems ever since, though this has not been independently confirmed.)

I think she had good intentions with her comments. She claimed to. They were supposed to have functioned along the lines of “constructive criticism.” The interesting thing about what she said – and this probably contributes to why I remember it so vividly – is that it was equal parts constructive and destructive. Again…much like the relationship. There was and is definitely a message worth conveying on her part and worth revisiting from time to time on my part. It’s a very valid, honest and helpful message. The only bad thing about it is that it can’t be communicated or received without acknowledging the unpleasant part of it.

Well, that’s not necessarily true. I think she could have gotten her point across without including the more negative parts of it, especially given her awareness of how physical appearance has always been the origin of my self-esteem issues. There have been times when I’ve remembered what she said and thought to myself that I would not have said it at all, had I been in her shoes. But I can appreciate wanting to get the more uplifting side of the comments across because, like I said, they were ultimately valid, honest and helpful. Her motives, though, could be questioned. Both of us had a desire to make each other more like ourselves. It was a very intense relationship in that it was usually either very joyous and promising or very dark and upsetting; there were few moments that fell in between the two extremes. Anyway, in the end, I suppose she accomplished the mission of her conversation with me in a way that was consistent with her attitude and feelings toward me in general – she stroked with one hand while slapping with the other.

(Some additional parenthetic information that’s too detailed and long for parenthesis...

(Apparently, during one drunken phone argument with her, I told her she was pretentious to the point where she reminded me of the Diane Chambers character from “Cheers.” I was shocked to hear that I’d said this the next day [I was
terrible back in my drinking days about not being able to remember things I’d said the previous night], though also very amused because I’d been secretly wanting to say that for as long as I’d known her. Actually, I despised her from the moment we met at work* because she was so flirtatious, pretentious and obviously insincere...three qualities I absolutely hate in people. But once our conversations progressed and it started to appear that she had some romantic interest in me, I sold myself out for the opportunity to be with her. It had been years since I’d even been on a date and had no life of my own during that period, so I was desperate for the attention/affection. But my instincts about her were correct, as my instincts usually – and weirdly – are about people. I have an odd gift in that regard and it serves me well, I think. But I digress.

(Anyway, her response to me, which I also didn’t remember, was that I too was like a character from “Cheers” to her. I was expecting her to say Sam Mallone because I, uh...let’s just say there’s a lot of primping going on when I’m getting ready to go out and leave it at that. [However, in my defense, I will say that I am one of the least metrosexual and lowest maintenance people I’ve ever known, otherwise. It’s true, I swear. But I’m getting off-topic again.] Anyway, I was mentally prepared to go off on her when she said I was the Sam Mallone character, but she didn’t. Instead, she said I was the Carla Tortelli. Which was appalling on first reaction but then became completely hilarious. Because it was so dead on. I’m obviously a pretty dark, sarcastic person. Not mean-spirited, but I could easily be so back in the days when I was a drunk. And back then that’s what I was. So it fit. But that gives you an idea of the kind of fundamental conflict in personality she and I had. As much as we could bring out the best in one another, our natural tendencies were to annoy the fuck out of each other. Somewhere between Yin and Yang and the snake consuming itself.

(*We met because we worked for the same company and got to know each other via email. She worked for our Austin showroom while I worked – and still do – for the corporate offices in Dallas. The fact that we “met” this way is significant in that when I am sitting in front of a computer or on the other end of a phone, I am not terribly shy and can communicate pretty decently. Whereas I tend to be the opposite when meeting new people in person. In fact, we declared our “interest” in one another sight-unseen during our second phone conversation, a
seven-hour talk; the first conversation the previous night lasted almost six hours. That was how strong our verbal/mental connection was and, all negative issues aside, there obviously had to be something there for us to have developed such an emotional intensity. Very weird, in hindsight. But thank god for the internet...otherwise, I’d never get laid. Anyway, I mention this because both of us knew full well that, had we met first in person, neither of us would have had any interest in the other and we would have never hooked up. So while I can thank god for the internet at the moment, I also retroactively curse it for fostering the kind of environment that encouraged that relationship to ever get off the ground.)

Okay, back to the point, which was the conversation I’m supposed to be sharing. (You can see now why she might have been attracted to some far away, semi-pretentious windbag like myself, yes? Oh, I’ve also been told I have a “sexy” phone voice. I just think I sound gay, but whatever. I’m sure that helped.) She and I had just returned from what was pretty much a hellish week together in Colorado. We had driven back to Dallas and gotten in the previous night after midnight. She stayed in town because of a work-related meeting the day after our trip. This was the first time she had visited the corporate offices in an official capacity, and nobody at the company (for the most part) knew we were together. Now, since I work for the corporate offices, I deal with folks at the various stores. So I talk to all of them and know them all, but none of them know each other. That was the case then and it’s still pretty true now. Anyway, she got to her hotel room to discover she had a roommate…her counterpart from one of our western locations, who also happened to be someone with whom I spoke frequently, although on a purely professional basis. (And who also, as it turns out, was every bit the pretentious snot my girlfriend was, albeit kind of a dumb one. But my point is I’d had many phone/email dealings with this other chick as well.)

The day passes...I do my usual job, they have their meeting. If I recall correctly, I ran into the girlfriend’s temporary roommate in the morning because she came to look for me to introduce herself. I don’t remember thinking much about the encounter at the time, except my observations that she looked exactly as I imagined her looking (snooty designer type), only a little more...I don’t know, stripper-y or something. Whatever. No big whup.

The day ends...I don’t even remember how or where the girlfriend and I met up, but I know we went and had dinner at a restaurant in Oak Lawn. Eating and conversation ensued. We get back to my place and I guess hung out for a bit before she had to drive back down to Austin that night.

So we’re standing out by her truck and talking about what she thought of everybody, her roommate, things I had told her about her roommate in advance, etc. Somehow, we got on the subject of what the roommate thought about meeting me (and probably vice versa). At which point, the girlfriend says the following...

“(The roommate) said she was really surprised because you weren’t as good looking as she thought you would be.” I remember it feeling like the verbal equivalent to a knee in the crotch. She continued, “Yeah, she thought that as smart and confident as you come across on the phone and in emails, and with the sexy voice that you have, that you’d be really hot. She said she was really surprised at how not attractive you were.”

How does one respond to a comment like that, just out of curiosity? I’m assuming I just stood there and stammered while trying to apply mental pressure to the puncture wound she just put in my gut.

Eventually, she finished telling me how the discussion played out...

“Was he smiling when you met him?”

“I don’t think so.”

“That’s too bad. Danny’s very handsome when he smiles.”

She always used the word “handsome” in an almost Victorian way when describing attractive men and I couldn’t stand it. It sounded like she was trying to be older or more sophisticated than she really was. Pretentious. Diane Chambers. I still hate that word.

Anyway, she tells me that she’s sharing this story with me as a form of constructive criticism...that other people, not just her, saw someone who looked a bit dour and unpleasant upon first glance. But that when I smiled, it changed my whole appearance to the point where I was suddenly…very handsome, I guess.

I’m like most people, I think, in that every once in a while I’ll catch a glimpse of myself and think, “Eh...could be worse.” And then on other days, go, “Oh, good god...” And my face is just my face, you know? I wake up with it every day, I see it all the is what it is. I don’t really know if it’s good or bad.

Logically, the thrust of her message is correct, of course. We humans adapted our smiles over millions of years because it serves us well in our various endeavors. And we’ve conditioned ourselves to see other people as being more approachable, less threatening, more attractive...handsome, you might even say…when they are smiling. I’m no different. I’m much more likely to want to say hello to someone who has a pleasant aura surrounding them versus someone who looks like...well, like someone who’s just been told they’re unattractive.

That was one of the hard things to digest about her comments to me. That she really did have a valid point, constructive criticism, and the views of an impartial observer to share with me for my benefit. As much as it hurt to hear it, there was a truth in what she said. But it was presented in a way that made it virtually impossible for me to not feel damaged by it. I would have said it differently, if I’d said it at all. I would have considered her feelings first and the fact that I was teaching her something valuable second…not the other way around. What’s interesting in retrospect, though, is that in that one moment, that one experience was the perfect crystallization of the differences between us. Our motivations and intentions were constantly at odds because we were just…different people. Distinctly different, no matter how much we complemented each other. The differences were beyond repair, though the reality is that no repair – on the most basic level, anyway – was necessary. We just were what we were, individually and as a pair.

And it doesn’t matter how many times I say it or write it or believe it...I’ve never been able to accept it. To this very day. And I’m not sure I ever will, for reasons that are too scattered to be able to gather up and examine all at once.

However, that’s not the point. I forget what made me start thinking about this. Or maybe I think about it all the time. But I’ve gradually learned over the years that, apparently, my default facial expression looks perhaps a little…intimidating or sullen or grumpy or depressed or...I don’t know. I just know that it doesn’t give the impression of inherent happiness or friendliness, by most accounts.

The people who are closest to me know, of course, that I am a pretty good guy. That I am actually usually trying to amuse other people whenever possible. That I am, indeed, a very friendly person once I’m comfortable enough with someone’s presence. That I am quite generous, caring and supportive, despite my tendency to try and appear removed from many things. I do have serious inhibition issues, I know that much. That contributes to my demeanor at any given moment, I’m sure. I don’t know if I looked “happier” as a child or if this is something that’s (d)evolved over the years...

So, short story long...How do you people who look so friendly and happy and do you keep your faces that way? Is it a conscious thing? Is it something you can learn to do? Or is it just how you’ve always been? (And you know who you are, so you’d better fucking chime in with some advice or insight or something...)

I’ve adopted a few philosophies that have come to mean a lot to me over the last few years. Some to the point where I’ve had them permanently inked on my body; others that I just keep written on a chalkboard in a hallway at home.

One…that it is absolutely as important to unlearn as it is to learn things as you grow older. And it probably takes more effort to unlearn than it does to learn something. We unintentionally teach ourselves (or are taught by others) a lot of really damaging shit over the course of a lifetime.

Another little something I created for myself just sort of materialized as a thought while I was, I swear to god, cleaning my toilet. (The potential for symbolism is staggering.) Anyway, it was just the phrase, “Your inside is a mirror; your outside a window.”

How fucking brilliant is that? (Or meaningless...I’m still not sure. But it sounds cool, yes?)

Why the expression came to me when it did, the way it did, is beyond me. But I wrote the shit down, I remember that much. I’m still trying to figure out the myriad ways in which it’s true (and isn’t). On a basic level, it just feels correct for me somehow. The first part of it is really nothing more than a reinterpretation of the notion that it isn’t what happens to you that determines who you are, but how you react to you respond – whether by choice or by instinct – to the information and experiences you are witness to. But the second part of that phrase...I may have been thinking about why I love getting tattoos so much and what they mean to me. Or I may have been wondering how others see me, physically speaking. Whether people see me and read the expression on my face at any given time as some sort of clue as to what I may be thinking or how I’m feeling. And if I appear as unhappy or unpleasant as I’ve been led to believe I appear, whether most folks would just as soon keep on walking rather stop to say hello. I probably would if I were them. All of us prefer to be invited or to feel welcome, myself included. So why is it that my face takes it upon itself to communicate the opposite...?

That’s really not me, I promise. It’s just the way I’m shaped...


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mark Davis: Outsourcing his belief system

Mark Davis is either uninformed, a completely inhumane jackass, or has permanently hung the "do not disturb" sign on the part of his brain which allows new information to enter.

Having said that, I thought I'd really kick this thing off with a little appetizer about our war “against” terror (as reported in the Washington Post, no less)...

(And you might want to make yourself comfortable because this post has been festering inside me for a while...)

Cleric Details CIA Abduction, Torture
by Craig Whitlock
The Washington Post
Friday 10 November 2006


I realize that most of the folks responsible for voting in the new majority House and Senate believe that an end to the fascism starter kit that the Bush clan has been implementing since 9/11 is in sight. Personally, I don’t think it means shit. Well, it is good news in that it at least took away (hopefully) the rubber stamp that our congress became with regard to all actions undertaken - and Orwellian legislation proposed - by the Bush administration. And that certainly is good.

However, more and more people are beginning to agree with the idea that Bush is merely a figurehead for a group of people who coordinate the whole show...some of whom are background figures while many are quite visible to the general public. And while people are rejoicing over the “resignation” of Donald Rumsfeld, I really don’t think that matters either. I think he’ll still be as active as ever. The resignation was a move to placate the new majority power, take some heat off the administration, and make everyone feel a little less threatened. But I think operations will continue as planned with a new sleazebag holding the Defense Secretary title. Just my hunch. (Turns out just after I wrote this section, Robert Gates was nominated as Rumsfeld's successor. My hunches are usually pretty good.)

But the subject at hand – for this post, anyway – is U.S. sanctioned torture. And the practice of torture itself, I guess. A few weeks ago, a local Rush Limbaugh wannabe named Mark Davis published a column in the Dallas Morning News about the subject of torture and our detainment of terrorism suspects. He wrote this column after a recent visit he paid to Guantanamo Bay. (Vacation or something? Maybe the beaches are nice? I don’t know either...)

His original column, published September 20, 2006, in the Dallas Morning News, will follow this paragraph. Followed, of course, by my soapboxing in response. I’m including the link to the column itself, but since the new Dallas Morning News website is so ungodly slow – and you may have to practically fill out a census report to be approved so you can read the damn thing – I’m also going to print the actual text of his column. (Please, Belo Corporation, do not sue me. I am trying to list all the appropriate credits. All hail the Belo Corp.)


Mark Davis: How should this country treat its terror suspects?
If we're committed to winning this war, we can't back down

11:19 AM CDT on Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I promised myself that I was not going to return from a visit to the Guantánamo Bay detention facility brandishing a know-it-all condescension.

I will keep to that promise, but the debate over detainee rights hits me in very pointed ways as politicians argue over how to treat people I stood a few yards from less than three weeks ago.

The debate over the Geneva Conventions seemed specious to me before I ever set foot in Cuba. Devised as a compact between nations seeking at least a base coat of civil wartime behavior, they are rules that apply in a specific set of circumstances, none of which pertain to our current war.

We are not engaged in battle with any particular nation that might claim signatory status to the Geneva Conventions. We are not fighting any uniformed entity that remotely aspires to the pleasantries enumerated within.

As such, it is tragically inane to hear United States senators whine about our obligations to afford terrorist combatants certain dignities out of fear of what enemy captors might do to us.

Think about that: What they might do to us? Do we need to review what they already do to us? These enemies are very fond of the videotaped beheading, for starters. They also have a penchant for hanging our charred bodies from bridges. Spare me the absurdly phony concerns about what our enemies "might" do if we fail to throw them the bone of Geneva Conventions protection.

This is sad to say, but I would expect Democrats to clumsily equate American standards of detainee treatment with those of our enemies. But when so-called Republicans join them, it is time to begin identifying, without regard to political party, who is serious about keeping this nation safe and who is not.

The GOP senators complaining about our inattention to detainee rights include Virginia's John Warner, somewhat of a surprise in this regard, and three more who are not: South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, an increasingly squishy moderate who calls for us to "take the moral high ground" as if it is immoral to do all we can to get vital information from terrorists; Susan Collins of Maine, long known as a RINO (Republican in Name Only); and John McCain, who brings his own credentials as a torture victim to the debate.

Those credentials are impossible to ignore. But they do not make him right. Texas Rep. Sam Johnson was no more favorably treated by his Vietnamese captors, yet he knows the ill wisdom of going soft on this enemy. He knew it when he disagreed with Mr. McCain on the national self-emasculation that is the Detainee Treatment Act, and he knows it now that we are engaged in a hand-wringing exercise that flogs the integrity of the people charged with securing information that could help us win the war.

It really is this simple: Even without making them full-fledged beneficiaries of Geneva Conventions rules, we are treating this enemy with a dignity unmatched in the history of warfare. From the dietary and religious favors we bestow to the perpetual reviews of their combatant status, it is specious to argue that we are somehow not generous enough with basic rights.

We have released detainees who have later been found back on the battlefield working to kill more Americans. Against this backdrop, any effort to place senseless roadblocks in the path of military or CIA interrogators is evidence that we truly may not be committed enough to winning.

If lawmakers can ever get around to clearing the way for them, the tribunals determining the disposition of hundreds of detainee cases will be conducted with the care and professionalism on display every day at Guantánamo. It is time for Congress to stop behaving as if the terrorists in our custody are modern concentration camp survivors in need of a rescue from the allies.

What we need a rescue from is the election-year posturing that undeservedly characterizes this phase of the U.S. war effort as sinister when it is arguably not tough enough.

The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays on News/Talk WBAP-AM (820) and nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. WBAP airtime is 9 a.m. to noon. His e-mail address is


First, let’s examine his secondary headline: “If we’re committed to winning this war, we can’t back down.”

My first thought is...back down from what, exactly? Our entitlement as the “world’s only superpower” to do whatever we want to whomever we want whenever we want? But that’s not the real issue. I’m just making fun of his macho jingoism.

I would yawn from the sheer boredom of hearing the stock Republican "stance" on terrorism puked out yet again if I didn’t find it so infuriating that there are people – grown up human beings – who actually believe we can “win” a “war” against a concept. Political parties and public relations writers live for this shit...that you can declare “war” on some abstract something that affects our society in a negative way, and, better still, actually “win” said war. We’ve done it for generations in this country. LBJ had the War On Poverty. Reagan had the War On Drugs. The Dubya Gang has their War On Terror. The beauty of such “wars” is that, a.) the enemy doesn’t exist in concrete terms (a war against Vietnam or a war against Granada...those are wars against bonafide, you-can-point-to-them-on-a-map enemies, though, interestingly, neither of those events was referred to as a “war” at the time - though the illegality of both endeavors might have had something to do with it); and, b.) there isn’t a human being alive – other than rich folks, corporations and governments who benefit financially from the perpetuation of said enemies – who could actually go on record as saying they support the “enemies” in question. (Yes, there are lots of people who love to get high, but not many are in favor of the crime associated with their drugs of choice being illegal, one would assume.) Poverty? Yeah, it sucks. Terror? Not a fan. I guess what’s most shocking is that we’ve yet to declare war on child molestation or sunburn or diarrhea. If there were gazillions of dollars to be made, I’ve no doubt we would, though.

But the purest, most dependable beauty of reason “a” is that you’re at war with the abstract. You can neither win nor lose. Ever. The world will never be free of poverty, we will never be free of the crime associated with illegal drug trafficking, and we will never be free of terrorism – never have been, never will be. Thus, it’s the best kind of war for the folks (indeed, the only folks) who benefit from such actions...arms manufacturers, the corporations who go in and rebuild the areas we destroyed (often the same groups who developed the weaponry used for the destruction), the companies who then swarm in like locusts to take control of the resources to be had, etc. The final, gratuitous kick in the nuts is that these corporations have financial ties to the high-ranking government officials who ordered this most recent war. It is the perfect form of war: the never-ending war. For profit, no less. Ain’t (unchecked) capitalism grand?

However, I’m digressing. The subject at the forefront of this post is not only the above column by the possibly-lobotomized Mark Davis, but the existance of state-sponsored torture and how the United States is using torture – along with developing a network of covert prison systems across the globe, unregulated corporate globalization, and overturning the most basic human rights laws that have been in the books for literally centuries – to create a new empire. This empire will answer to no one because it will have no peers financially, militarily, operationally, or morally, since the United Nations has been transformed into the utterly useless, powerless organization its creators always intended. (Yes, in can intercede in response to abuses of power and crimes against humanity…just so long as the accused parties don’t hold veto power on the Security Council.)

Now, I know better than to read anything by Mark Davis or by any other narrow-minded partisan blowhard from either wing, but I couldn’t ignore the headline. (Keep in mind, this column was printed over a month ago, though I know full well Davis’s assertions haven’t changed, nor have those of the sheep he speaks for.) And since this column crawled up my ass (and is still causing much discomfort), all kinds of fun new details have emerged regarding our treatment of suspects abroad and the accompanying suspension of so many truly fundamental basic civil liberties. It’s taken me a while, obviously, to gather my links and focus my thoughts. Mostly just because it’s too much to comprehend...that the supposed model for democracy across the globe has taken such a sharp turn toward, well, fascism. We’re rapidly becoming one of the least democratic societies in existence. All the more bothersome is the fact that we have the rest of the world by the balls thanks to our insurmountable advantages in military strength, strategic territories, weaponry, technological resources and corporate support. Simply put, we’re Hitler’s wet dream. (Minus the racial objectives. Though the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina might suggest otherwise.)

Since Mark Davis didn’t go into details about why he was at the Cuban base or how he got there, and since the media as a rule isn’t allowed in, one would assume he was probably given some sort of PR tour by U.S. officials. Given our government’s control of the media during “wartime”, it’s probably also safe to assume Davis was allowed/encouraged to see exactly what he was supposed to see. At which point, he would return home and tell his loyal audience how nice the situation in Guantanamo Bay is.

Mark Davis isn’t so much a member of the media as he is a cheerleader for the Republicans. But since his commentaries are aired on a talk-radio station and printed in the only daily newspaper in the city, he is viewed as being part of “the media” as a whole. Whether folks like him or Fox News happened by design or by accident...I have no idea. But the increasing concentration of right-wing commentary over the past couple decades certainly works in tandem with those who formulate the administration’s PR plans...the combined practice which can be described in broad terms as “advocacy journalism.” (Which is a terrific oxymoron, by the way. It really just amounts to government public relations.)

But, all that’s Mark Davis the private citizen that really, really disturbs me because he represents far too many people in this country today. People like him worry and frustrate me so much because he so blindly follows anything that is said by anyone whose name is followed in the media with “(-R)” that he just flat refuses to think for himself anymore. He’s entrusted his common sense and morality with a group of people – the Republican Party - who are concerned more with maintaining their own existence as an entity, by any means necessary, than they are with the people they’re supposed to represent. (And the same can be said for the “(-D)” lemmings as well.) Either that or he truly has no concern for the humanity that lay beyond our borders. I haven’t decided which should scare me more.

So this is my open letter to Mark Davis. I doubt he’ll read it, but it makes me feel better to imagine him doing so.


(Greetings and salutations, etc...)

First off, you’re assuming that all the people currently making up the “they” in Guantanamo Bay are guilty. Since the vast majority of those folks haven’t been charged with anything yet, we don’t know who’s guilty, who’s innocent, or who was in the wrong place or with the wrong people at the wrong time. That’s a dangerous assumption to make. But since you’re already referring to them as “the terrorists in our custody,” I guess that ship has sailed.

So let’s assume instead that everyone in U.S. government custody is, in fact, guilty. Of something really heinous and nasty, just to make your message more thematically consistent (“they” = presumably bad; “us” = unquestionably good). Aside from the fact that information obtained through methods considered “torture” is most often unreliable and almost always inadmissible in court, are you seriously arguing that, because other groups or nations have tortured American citizens in the past or might be doing so now, the United States should respond (or address “preemptively” as we prefer to do these days) in kind? Have you really gotten to the point where you feel we should no longer lead by example? That the ideals and principles that suggest all human beings have inherent value no longer apply? That we should now be working from the bottom up to achieve some sort of collective moral compass rather than continuing, in theory at the very least, to work toward the betterment of ourselves as individuals and as a whole? And that you, as an individual, or we, as a society, have no responsibility toward the dignity and welfare of other people?

Shouldn’t we be trying to get away from barbaric behavior in any form? Isn’t that just part of our human evolution on the whole? (Don’t get your boxers in a bunch, I don’t mean that kind of “evolution”...I’m referring to the kind of overall growth and collective enlightenment that’s brought us from things like, say, slavery, public executions, branding people as witches...that sort of thing.) How can we possibly sanction torture in a political prison (which, until these people are charged with crimes, is what Guantanamo Bay amounts to) on one hand while saying we’re trying to protect freedom from oppression and the value of human life on the other? That is what we’re trying to do across the globe right now, right? Or am I misunderstanding the motives behind the mission?

The politicians who are currently opposed to our sanctioning of torture as an official (or at least accepted) policy of the United States, may, indeed, be “posturing”…that’s what politicians tend to do. So let’s put that aside. What about those of us who are opposed to our government conducting itself in this manner based on our own personal sense of morality or conviction? How does that make us “soft on terrorism” (or whatever jingoistic bullshit with which you label our principles)? At what point does taking the high road – admittedly, a nebulous concept – not remain at the forefront of our collective humanitarian concerns? Or is humanitarianism wimpy, too?

Just this morning
(at the time I wrote this part right after his column was published) I read a quote from Winston Churchill: “The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.” He said this in 1943 to express his growing dismay over the mass detainments in the U.K. of anyone suspected of having “sympathies” toward the Germans, the Italians, the IRA...anybody who could be perceived of as a threat to the English way of life at that time. (He was consistently overridden by his own party to continue the detainment program. Interestingly, President Roosevelt, who most folks on the left look back on with great – and deserved, mostly – admiration, had no such qualms about the detainment of thousands of Asian-Americans on the west coast of the U.S.)

It amazes me that a quote from more than sixty years ago is so relevant today. Or has become so relevant again, perhaps I should say. Consider all the other areas of society in which we’ve progressed since the 1940s...attitudes toward race, gender and even, for the most part, religion. Yet we have seemingly regressed by over half a century to the idea that any government (so long as they call themselves a democracy) can detain a person simply based on suspicion alone, and that, as long as that person is in federal custody, he or she does not actually have to be charged with anything. And if that weren’t enough, we now want to be able to legally torture that suspect under the notion that torture will expose some sort of evidence we’re unable to otherwise gather.

Mark, can you or anyone else please bring my attention to one society –
any society – in the whole of human history that used torture and political prisons and is remembered as being anything other than barbaric? Those concepts are the absolute antithesis of everything a free society is supposed to be founded upon.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting everyone detained as a result of our “war on terror” is innocent. Nobody can suggest that. Just as nobody can suggest they’re all guilty. If they are guilty, charge them with a crime. But to hold anyone indefinitely and subject them to legalized torture is, to my mind, the real crime. They are the actions of a government with deceitful and dishonorable intentions. And to defend those intentions blindly and without humanity is the most un-American notion of which I can conceive. Patriotism is not blind faith – it is holding ourselves as a whole to the same standards to which we hold ourselves as individuals.

I feel sad for you, Mark. And if you truly are reflective of any significant portion of American citizens, I feel ashamed for us.


It should come as little surprise to learn that I’m not quite done with this. Like I mentioned, all kinds of information has come to light since Davis’s column was published. For example, that very same day, Newsweek published the following article:

Does Torture Really Work? Most Intelligence Experts Say No
by Evan Thomas
Wednesday 20 September 2006


U.S. officials do not use the word torture to describe their own methods. Instead, American intelligence officials speak of ‘aggressive interrogation measures,’ sometimes euphemistically known as ‘torture lite.’ According to human-rights activists who have consulted with Senate staffers involved in the negotiations, Bush administration officials are trying to redefine the Geneva Conventions, which bans ‘cruel practices,’ to allow seven different procedures: 1) induced hypothermia, 2) long periods of forced standing, 3) sleep deprivation, 4) the ‘attention grab’ (forcefully seizing the suspect's shirt), 5) the ‘attention slap,’ 6) the ‘belly slap’ and 7) sound and light manipulation. As NEWSWEEK reported this week in its story The Politics of Terror, a harsh technique called ‘waterboarding,’ which induces the sensation of drowning, would be specifically banned.

These procedures, apparently including waterboarding, have been used on several so-called High Value Targets - alleged top Al Qaeda operatives in captivity. Without getting into specifics, President Bush has stated that his administration's interrogation and detention program has been necessary to foil plots and save lives.

But is that true? In recent interviews with NEWSWEEK reporters, U.S. intelligence officers say they have little - if any - evidence that useful intelligence has been obtained using techniques generally understood to be torture. It is clear, for instance, that Al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. His interrogators even go after his family. (KSM reportedly shrugged off the threat to his family - he would meet them in heaven, he said.) KSM did reveal some names and plots. But they haven't panned out as all that threatening: one such plot was a plan by an Al Qaeda operative to cut down the Brooklyn Bridge - with a blow torch. Intelligence officials could never be sure if KSM was holding back on more serious threats, or just didn't know of any.

The Bush administration has tried another approach to end-run critics: farming out torture. For years, American intelligence handed over prisoners to be interrogated by other security services less squeamish about squeezing information out of suspects. These so-called renditions picked up after 9/11. The very first high-ranking Al Qaeda operative captured - Abu Faraj al-Libbi - was first interrogated by the FBI. But when the FBI wanted to use its normal, go-slow methods, the prisoner was turned over to the CIA - who promptly turned him over to the Egyptians. (NEWSWEEK has reported that as al-Libbi was led to a plane routed for Egypt, a CIA operative whispered in his ear that he planned to ‘f-- your mother’.) Under the no-doubt rough care of the Egyptians, al-Libbi talked of plots and agents. The information was used to make the case for war against Iraq. As recounted in ‘Hubris,’ a new book by NEWSWEEK's Michael Isikoff and David Corn, there was only one problem: al-Libbi later recanted, saying that he had lied to stop the torture.

Next came this gem, which I know most folks probably heard something about. Judging from the casual tone of the conversation, it almost sounds like Dick Cheney’s pacemaker was on sleep mode or something and he wound up revealing a bit more than he’d planned to...

Cheney Confirms That Detainees Were Subjected to Water-Boarding
by Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers
Wednesday 25 October 2006


Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called ‘water-boarding,’ which creates a sensation of drowning. Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture. Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.

Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have said that a law Bush signed last month prohibits water-boarding. The three are the sponsors of the Military Commissions Act, which authorized the administration to continue its interrogations of enemy combatants.

Graham, a military lawyer who serves in the Air Force Reserve, reaffirmed that view in an interview last week with McClatchy Newspapers. “Water-boarding, in my opinion, would cause extreme physical and psychological pain and suffering, and it very much could run afoul of the War Crimes Act,” he said, referring to a 1996 law. “It could very much open people up to prosecution under the War Crimes Act, as well as be a violation of the Detainees Treatment Act.”

A revised U.S. Army Field Manual published last month bans water-boarding as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.’

The radio interview Tuesday was the first time that a senior Bush administration official has confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding against important al Qaida suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammad was captured in Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and turned over to the CIA. (Water-boarding means holding a person's head under water or pouring water on cloth or cellophane placed over the nose and mouth to simulate drowning until the subject agrees to talk or confess.)

In an interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to “let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives.”

“Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?” Hennen said.

“I do agree,” Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. “And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation.”

Cheney added that Mohammed had provided “enormously valuable information about how many (al Qaida members) there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth. We've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that.”

“Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?” asked Hennen.

“It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president ‘for torture.’ We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in,” Cheney replied. “We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that.”

Lee Ann McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, denied that Cheney had confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding or endorsed the technique.

“What the vice president was referring to was an interrogation program without torture,” she said. “The vice president never goes into what may or may not be techniques or methods of questioning.”

(Huh? Uh, yeah, he did say exactly that, actually. Thank goodness his spokesperson isn't his proofreader...)

(The interview transcript was posted on the White House Web site {}.)

Of course, the fun doesn’t stop there. After all, you can’t torture prisoners and hold them indefinitely unless you start reshaping your own laws to allow you to do so. For example, Let’s get do away with that annoying habeas corpus. Most folks probably think it’s just a blessing from the pope anyway, right…?

Bush's Brave New World of Torture
by Jennifer Van Bergen
Wednesday 01 November 2006

Highlights, anyone...?

The MCA (Military Commissions Act) is an unprecedented power grab by the executive branch. Among the Act's worst features, it authorizes the president to detain, without charges, anyone whom he deems an unlawful enemy combatant. This includes U.S. citizens. It eliminates habeas corpus review for aliens. It also makes providing "material support" to terrorists punishable by military commission. And the military commissions' procedures allow for coerced testimony, the use of "sanitized classified information" - where the source is not disclosed - and trial for offenses not historically subject to trial by military commissions. (Terrorism is not historically a military offense; it's a crime.) Finally, by amending the War Crimes Act, it allows the president to authorize interrogation techniques that may nonetheless violate the Geneva Conventions and provides future and retroactive "defenses" for those who engage in or authorize those acts.

The Bush...administration's belief that Guantanamo was not subject to U.S. court jurisdiction was the main reason it chose that as its detention site.

Habeas corpus is the right to have a court determine the legality of one's imprisonment before trial. The U.S. Constitution states that "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it."

Advocates of the MCA claim that habeas has never applied to foreign combatants captured on the battlefield. This claim begs the question: In the "war on terror," how do you know where the battlefield is and how do you know who foreign combatants are?
(Hint: that’s why it’s the “perfect war.” The White House is taking upon itself the crusade to redefine terms like “war” and “enemy combatants” so that internationally {and domestically} recognized laws relating to “war” as the courts have known it for over half a century no longer apply.) Habeas exists exactly for the purpose of challenging wrongful detentions…

The MCA contains two provisions that strip detainees of their right to habeas corpus. One provides that: court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever, including any action pending on or filed after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006…including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions…
The second provision, amending the habeas statute, adds the following: No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

(Very democratic, wouldn’t you say? With more than a hint of totalitarianism. And how ironic that the White House keeps stating publicly that their real intent is to rid the existing laws of their ambiguity, while doing so with the vaguest language possible.)

Finally, the MCA helps to shield U.S. personnel from being held responsible for abuses committed during detentions or interrogations. This is widely considered to be the Bush administration's primary motive in pushing this legislation: To keep Bush administration officials and others from being held accountable for war crimes or other grave violations of the laws of war.

What kind of law provides imprisonment without the right of habeas or punishment without legitimate appeal? Without those standards, the law is just "victor's justice" - which is no justice at all. The Second World War is often understood to have come about at least in part as a result of the humiliation exacted upon Germans by the victors at the end of WWI. Victor's justice breeds resentment. It breeds more war.

Next up – two days later – we have the following report. And it comes right on schedule as you can only suspend habeas corpus with maximum success if you also institute a system for worldwide – and legalized – absolute secrecy with regard to the actions being carried out by the U.S. agencies overseeing this “brave new world.” And, of course, it’s all in the name of “national security”...

US Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons
Court is asked to bar detainees from talking about interrogations
by Carol D. Leonnig and Eric Rich
The Washington Post
Saturday 04 November 2006


The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that their captors used to get them to talk.

The government says in new court filings that those interrogation methods are now among the nation's most sensitive national security secrets and that their release - even to the detainees' own attorneys - "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage." Terrorists could use the information to train in counter-interrogation techniques and foil government efforts to elicit information about their methods and plots...

Government lawyers…argue in court papers that detainees…have no automatic right to speak to lawyers because the new Military Commissions Act, signed by President Bush last month, stripped them of access to US courts. That law established separate military trials for terrorism suspects.

Captives who have spent time in the secret prisons, and their advocates, have said the detainees were sometimes treated harshly with techniques that included "waterboarding," which simulates drowning. Bush has declared that the administration will not tolerate the use of torture but has pressed to retain the use of unspecified "alternative" interrogation methods.

The government argues that once rules are set for the new military commissions, the high-value detainees will have military lawyers and "unprecedented" rights to challenge charges against them in that venue.

In a separate court document filed last night, (one suspect’s) attorneys offered declarations from Khaled al-Masri, a released detainee who said he was held with Khan in a dingy CIA prison called "the salt pit" in Afghanistan. There, prisoners slept on the floor, wore diapers and were given tainted water that made them vomit, Masri said. American interrogators treated him roughly, he said, and told him he "was in a land where there were no laws.” (The suspect’s) family did not learn of his whereabouts until Bush announced his transfer in September, more than three years after he was seized in Pakistan.

And, finally, we have what would appear to be the beginnings of the final piece to this new operational puzzle. The terms “global” and “empire” appear in this article, and for good reason. You have to have accomplices for such plans, of course, and the U.S. has been quietly building these alliances for years. Though we don’t yet know the payoffs for the cooperating parties, one would be safe to assume it is the standard prizes awarded to goons by their bullies: money and protection.

American Prison Planet
The Bush administration as global jailor
by Nick Turse
Thursday 02 November 2006

Some of the more “noteworthy” sections...

Today, the United States presides over a burgeoning empire...a far-flung new network of maximum security penitentiaries, detention centers, jail cells, cages, and razor wire-topped pens. From supermax-type isolation prisons in 40 of the 50 states to shadowy ghost jails at remote sites across the globe, this new network of detention facilities is quite unlike the gulags, concentration-camps, or prison nations of the past.
Even with a couple million prisoners under its control, the U.S. prison network lacks the infrastructure or manpower of the Soviet gulag or the orderly planning of the Nazi concentration-camp system. However, where it bests both, and breaks new incarceration ground, is in its planet-ranging scope...Right now, it has only four major centers - the "homeland," Afghanistan, Iraq, and a postage-stamp-sized parcel of Cuba. As such, it already hovers at the edge of its own imperial existence, bringing to mind the unprecedented possibility of a prison planet. In a remarkably few years, the Bush administration has been able to construct a global detention system, already of near epic proportions, both on the fly and on the cheap.

Soon after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the U.S. began the process of creating what has been termed "an offshore archipelago of injustice.”...The Bush administration detained people from around the world in sweeps, imprisoned them without charges and kept them incommunicado at U.S. detention facilities at a CIA prison outside Kabul, Afghanistan (code-named the "Salt Pit"), at Bagram military airbase in Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, among other sites.

Since it was set up in 2002, the detainment complex at Guantanamo Bay has been the public face of the Bush administration's semi-secret foreign prison network…But "Gitmo" has always been the tiny showpiece, the jewel in a very dark crown, for a much larger, less visible foreign network of military detention facilities, CIA "black" sites, and outsourced foreign prisons. It is a prison camp that rightly attracts opprobrium, but it also serves to focus attention away from shadowy ghost jails, borrowed third-nation facilities, much larger prisons holding thousands in Iraq, and a full-scale network of detention centers and prisons in Afghanistan.

...According to the Washington Post, some locations for these black sites include itinerant CIA detention centers "on ships at sea," a site in Thailand, and another on "Britain's Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean." Uzbekistan has been reported as one possible location, Algeria another. Denials were issued about ghost jails being located in Russia and Bulgaria. The British Guardian named "a US airbase in the Gulf state of Qatar" as another suspected site. And while proposed prisons on "virtually unvisited islands in Lake Kariba in Zambia" were evidently nixed, various black sites located in "several democracies in Eastern Europe" apparently did come into being.

ABC News reported that the "CIA established secret prisons in Romania and Poland in 2002-2003" before shutting them down in early 2006 and moving the disappeared prisoners on to "a facility in North Africa."
...The "archipelago of injustice" has grown to world-spanning proportions. For example…a network of over 20 U.S. prisons was believed to exist in Afghanistan, including "an official US detention centre in Kandahar, where the tough regime has been nicknamed 'Camp Slappy' by former prisoners,”...and that "the U.S. military has erected some 20 detention centers [in Afghanistan}…which all operate in near total secrecy. These are facilities that the U.N., the Afghan government, journalists, and human rights groups can't get into."

We know as well that suspects, swept up around the world, have been outsourced to the prisons and torture chambers of third countries in "extraordinary rendition" operations. The number of prisons operated by other countries is shadowy, but certainly geographically wide-ranging...(among them)Morocco...Jordan...Saudi Arabia...Syria...Egypt...Azerbaijan…and Thailand.

The treatment given in 2002 to Canadian Maher Arar, recently the recipient of the Letelier-Moffitt International Human Rights Award, offers a glimpse into the American prison planet in action in its early stages of formation. Arar has described how he was detained and then held incommunicado - shackled and chained - in a terminal in New York's JFK Airport before being transported to Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center. At that Federal prison, Arar recalls an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agent telling him, "The INS is not the body or the agency that signed the Geneva Convention...against torture."

"For me," said Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria, "what that really meant is we will send you to torture and we don't care." He was, in fact, soon flown to Jordan, where he was beaten, and then driven to Syria. There, he was locked in a filthy, dark cell "about three feet wide, six feet deep and about seven feet high" where he was kept in isolation for 10 months and 10 days when not being physically assaulted. Despite being tortured into a false confession, Arar was found to have no links to terrorism and was never charged with crimes of any sort by the United States, Canada, Jordan, or Syria.

The offshore archipelago of injustice garners the headlines, but it's the homeland prison network that locks up far more people and provides at least one possible model for what the foreign network could morph into given the time and funds to expand and harden into a permanent supermax system. Comprised of federal and state prisons, territorial prisons, local jails, "facilities operated by or exclusively for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement," military prisons, "jails in Indian country," and juvenile detention facilities, the homeland prison system is a truly massive apparatus.

...In the immediate wake of 9/11, the government conducted sweeps of Muslim immigrants (and Muslim-Americans) reminiscent of the detentions of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II, "locking up large numbers of Middle Eastern men, using whatever legal tools they can." There was never any full accounting of these mass roundups, codenamed PENTTBOM, or what happened to all the people who were rousted from beds or yanked out of places of work by federal agents. What little is known suggests that "762 of the 1,200 PENTTBOM arrestees were charged with immigration violations at the behest of the FBI because agents thought they might be associated with terrorism...[but] almost every one was either deported or released within a few months." Only a small percentage of the 1,200 are thought to have even been processed through the federal criminal justice system.

On the American prison planet, not only has the principle of habeas corpus been formally abolished and torture proudly added to the mix, but that crucial tenet of the legal system, the presumption of innocence, has been cast aside. Whether at home or abroad, the solution for U.S. security forces is a simple one, identify the likely suspects, conduct sweeps, and preemptively lock them up.

According to recent statements by the Department Homeland Security 's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, some time in the future undocumented economic migrants may be imprisoned on "old cruise ships." Other illegals may even find themselves in a KBR concentration camp. Earlier this year, news broke that Halliburton subsidiary, KBR- received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to build detention centers, according to the New York Times, "for an unexpected influx of immigrants" or "new programs that require additional detention space." For anyone who remembers the First World War-era proposal by four state governors to imprison members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) for the duration of the conflict, or the 1939 Hobbs ("Concentration Camp") Bill that sought the detention of aliens, or the forcible relocation and imprisonment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the 1950 McCarran Act's provisions for setting up concentration camps for subversives, or the Vietnam-era plans to round up and jail radicals in the event of a national emergency and conduct mass detentions in the face of possible urban insurrections, the announcement may have seemed less than startling. But thought of in the context of prison-planet planning, it nonetheless strikes an ominous note indeed.

In 2005, Irene Khan, Amnesty International's general secretary, described Guantanamo Bay as "the gulag of our time." But the American gulag is so much more than Guantanamo and so much worse. The combination of U.S. "homeland" prisons, where "one in 140 Americans..." are locked away, the offshore imperial detention facilities, the shadowy CIA black sites, and the ever-shifting outsourced detention facilities operated by other nations adds up to something new in history - the makings of a veritable American prison planet.

So...back to Mark Davis.

Mark - Do you still stand by your column? By your convictions that the U.S. government is beyond reproach? (Unless someone other than a Republican is president, of course.) Is this the America of which you're proud? As I recall, what we're doing now is pretty similar to the shit Stalin was doing back in the 1940s and '50s...rounding up people to herd them into political prisons without charges, sending folks off for torture, and simply making them "disappear" forever without any legal consequences.

Please find the time to read over this post at least a couple more times. If you disagree with my statements or question the media reports I reference, I beg you to challenge this blog entry. Prove me wrong...because I don't think you can.

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Somebody's finally trying to scare up more details on how the bin Laden family and members of the Saud royal family were able to exit the country by air immediately after 9/11 when all commercial airlines were grounded. I'm rubbing my hands together with anticipation. Pessimistic anticipation (if such a thing exists), but anticipation nevertheless...

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

It's not nice to fool...Mother Nature...! (boom, crash, etc.)

First off, you’ll have to kinda bear with me. Since undertaking this whole blogging thing, I’ve discovered there are way more topics about which I’d like to blog than there is time to actually write the blogs. Thus, I’ve gotten really blogged down (har har) and have shit scattered everywhere. Today, I took it upon myself to try and get a little organized so I can tackle one subject at a time and, hopefully, whittle things down to the point where I’m somewhat caught up. So these next few entries might seem a little dated, but my reason for digging them up – indeed, the point of the entire blogsite itself – is to try and bring attention to these subjects or stories. Even if nobody reads least I’ve put them out there for now. Plus, each story or news item is still relevant…I’ll try to provide updates to see if the situations have evolved or devolved since their original publication dates.

That said, there was an article from the June issue of The Sun that I’d like to share. Part of the article, anyway. The author is a guy named Barry Lopez, a writer from Oregon who specializes in the relationship between nature and human society, in both his fiction and non-fiction works. The article (short-story?) in question is called Waiting for Salmon. I couldn’t find any mention on his website of it being included in any of his books...otherwise, I’d include a link. Hopefully, I won’t get sued. Anyway, here’s an excerpt from this story that I really liked for a number of reasons...

“A purely biological view of humanity – sans politics, sans religion – is something we are unaccustomed to. We tend to think of humanity as exempt from nature by virtue of its technologies, its impressive eschatologies. (No, I don’t know what that word means either.) To practice our political and religious beliefs, however, we must be free to act – a freedom already compromised by our aversion to questions about our biological fate. Scientists...would inform us that we are organisms no more separate from nature than we are exempt from the consequences of the cultural design we have tried to impose on nature.

“To speak frankly and unemotionally of large-scale changes in the natural world that might be traced to human activity, however, remains anathema to people still furious with Darwin for suggesting that ‘nature’ included man. In this way some religious convictions in America directly oppose democratic process.

“Imagine a disinterested primate mammalogist or psychiatric pathologist dispassionately observing a random, urban population of Homo sapiens in North America. He or she would be justified in writing this diagnosis:
Increasingly dependent on prescription drugs to elevate or suppress its emotions; living in intense, intersecting fields of electromagnetic energy; drawing its waters from aquifers laced with manufactured chemical wastes, including hormones and antibiotics whose synergistic toxicity is unknown and ignored. He or she would note that the diseases making striking inroads in this population include various forms of dementia (attention-deficit disorder and Alzheimer’s), asthma, hypertension, depression, distraction disorders, and many types of cancer. He or she would point out that while the primary cause of such diseases is often genetic predisposition, it is likely that these particular diseases are also culturally driven or stress-related to some appreciable degree. Relying solely on traditional explanations of the etiology of these impairments, the researcher would be compelled to note, would be to ignore the role of industry practice and government policy and to overlook the unwitting human disturbance of viral ecologies in recent years that has produced HIV, Ebola, Lassa fever, Marburg virus, and other unprecedented problems.

“The world, we too often forget, has no investment or interest in the triumph of Homo sapiens, an idea that many Christian fundamentalists, with their Albigensian
( idea) hatred of the earth, want stricken from the record of human thought.

“In a mature nation, where terrorists might be understood as part of a worldwide awakening to the specter of finite resources, and to the strategic and tactical planning required to secure ownership to fresh water, petroleum, and grain fields, it would be possible in political discussion to raise the subject of the fate of Homo sapiens. But in no country does this seem possible. As for America, its mainstream politics is uninformed by, even hostile to, biology. Further, a major segment of the American electorate apparently believes that any concern about where food and water will come from is a superstitious holdover from the time of ‘primitive’ people. Man’s destiny, his true home, they assert, is in a heaven, alongside their one-and-only God, who gave humans the earth to use for whatever it might provide in the way of comfort and material wealth, and for however it might serve their plan to convert all benighted peoples to a belief in Him. That done, the earth would be abandoned. A rapturous departure, an empty warehouse.”

I do like the fact that it takes to task the seeming majority of Americans who prefer to ignore the independently verifiable information that science has provided us over the past century and a half or so in favor of the absurdly mythological tales that organized religions – Christianity, in particular – have deemed the unquestionable truth. I still cannot wrap my head around this kind of head-in-sand “faith,” but then I’m probably the last person who should be trying to.

But what really jumped out at me was the bit about the objective examiner trying to translate modern American society for an audience previously ignorant of it...the “diagnosis” of our collective dependence on prescription medications and unnatural additives, the fact that we ingest these both intentionally and unintentionally, without knowing the long- (or even medium-) term effects to our human bodies and the body of our Earth. Lopez then takes his narrative to the next logical level, which is the fact that over the same basic corresponding time during which these chemicals became commonplace in our lives, there have been equally dramatic increases in both psychological disorders and flesh-and-blood disease. (Mental health experts would probably argue that I shouldn’t separate the two, though for the sake of this post I will.) “Culturally driven...unprecedented problems,” the shortest possible summary.

Leaving the rest of the issues related to religion aside for now (though the excerpt above is certainly worth reading and re-reading again, which is why I left it intact), it more or less brings us right back to the issue I brought up a post or two previous...the willful ignorance of future consequences related to the industries of “natural” products for human consumption using production methods that circumvent scientific integrity in the name of commerce.

The prescription drug industry – completely out of control now that the FDA has become a puppet organization managed by the very companies and special interests they are supposed to be overseeing; factory farming; the completely synthetic world of artificial food additives, which seems to expand with Big Bang rapidity; genetically modified agriculture and the corporations who specialize in it...these are all examples of industries which have been encouraged through government deregulation to disregard ethics and public safety for the sake of their respective shareholders. (Especially thanks to that ridiculous Clinton-era law that took it upon itself to reclassify corporations as actual citizens.)

Common sense tells us not to feed poultry products to chicken, tells us not to feed beef derivatives to cattle. Yet we act surprised when Avian Flu and Mad Cow Disease appear in our food supply.

In this age of global commerce, both corporations and governments encourage people to stop thinking and start buying. Hell, Dubya said as much after the 9/11 attacks…that the best way all of us could help the national healing process would be to start “buying again.” That’s the prevailing advice across the globe: don’t think, just buy. Doesn’t really matter what you buy, so long as money’s getting passed around.

And it’s a recipe for catastrophe. Forget evidence for a moment and just rely on common sense. How much more convincing should we need to remember – not “realize” but “remember” – that humans cannot mold the natural world for the sake of profit without provoking devastating results?

I’ve provided a couple additional links below that I think are worth reading and considering with regard to our current course. I hope they present you with information you find worthy of your time...

October 17, 2006
FDA is Set to Approve Milk, Meat from Clones

October 15, 2006 (from Michael Pollan)
The Vegetable-Industrial Complex

September 29, 2006
TFAs, the Food Industry’s ‘Trojan Horse’ on Your Table

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Dale Crover is a god

...In addition to being the best drummer Nirvana ever had. The man is amazing. And Buzz Osborne starts to resemble Albert Einstein more and more each time I see him. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Last night's show (Melvins / Big Business / Porn - who played their set dressed up as Elvis {Crover on drums}, Santa Claus {the guitar player - never did figure out who he really was}, and what appeared to be the Bee Girl from the Blind Melon video on bass {couldn't figure out his identity, either}) was the perfect show if you love really good drummers. And I love really good drummers. That motherfucker from Big Business was ridiculously talented.

8.5 on a scale of ten. Sez me.

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news you can use (because the news is using you)

Okay, so most of us know that Fox News is little more than a mouthpiece for the Republican Party disguised as a news network. Still, it's pretty shocking to read the following story from Keith Olbermann, who could just as easily be described as a mouthpiece for the Democrats...

Has Fox News Gone Too Far?

Which leads me to my question: Which media sources are we supposed to be able to trust these days? Is there anyone? I can't believe any of the major television news departments can be trusted anymore. ABC is owned by Disney, a notoriously conservative corporation with really deep pockets; NBC is owned by General Electric, a corporation who invests more in military and weapons technology-related industries than few others in the world; CBS...I forget who owns them, but there's no denying their tendencies to cave in to White House directives with regard to their journalism; and, obviously, Fox isn't even worth considering as a serious news organization. CNN? What should be a beacon of independent journalism has deteriorated into little more than an outlet for right-wing screamfests. The larger issue, though, is just the fact that the media as a whole no longer does its fucking job. No one investigates or does much more than lob softballs at press secretaries who are nothing more than public relations schleps who get paid to recite text provided for them and then stick to that script come hell or high water. The reporters then, rather than question the BS being fed to them, mostly report that script with little to no investigative follow-up.

So who do we trust to report the truth (or at least facts, not to get too Colbert-y on anyone)? I think at this point there are few options beyond independent internet journalists.

I'm sure you notice most of the media reports I reference come from an organization called TruthOut, who I learned of through Wendy. They are hardly an unbiased group. I do fight my way through (read: ignore) most of the more obvious Democratic Party propoganda, of which there's plenty. But there are also plenty of articles and commentary that expose the truths that the major media outlets ignore. I'm assuming there must be a few similar organizations who operate from the right as well. (I'd hope so, anyway.)

The answer to my own question, "Who do we trust?" is...I don't know. I just know we no longer have an independent media. Probably haven't for quite a while now. It's disappointing, to say the least, and extremely un-democratic at its core.

Any suggestions from the audience? Is there anyone left who can report truthfully without fear of being smothered by corporate motherships? Or is the state of American journalism yet another permanent casualty of our decades-old orgy of deregulation?

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

"....greed is the mother of treachery."

Title courtesy of a character in the book I'm currently finishing up, the great Steve Earle's Doghouse Roses.

It also is a great summation of the chip that's been on my political shoulder for years now...that greed will kill us all. That greed is responsible for every ill that plagues every society on Earth. That greed is responsible for virtually every war that's ever been fought. That greed is responsible for the monopolistic and corrupt political system in the U.S. today, which in turn has led us into the arms of the folks who we currently collectively refer to as "the White House." A group which, to my mind, will eventually take "greed" to the most insidious, ugliest and morally horrifying limits of its definition. But more on that group later...

In the meantime, here's an article from the LA Times which touches on - too briefly, unfortunately - one of the model concepts for what greed is capable of achieving when it infiltrates the world of commerce and "necessary" commodities: factory farming.

Factory farms are harmful to the public and the environment, researchers report.

Factory farming is yet another reality most Americans willfully ignore. Myself included, though I am working to rid my life from as much dependence on it as possible. Any time any part of the natural world - be it animals, plants, minerals, fossil fuels, etc. - becomes a commercial commodity, bad, ugly things happen. The Middle East is the most obvious example, but others include the mountaintop-removal mining that's going on in the Appalachians, the destruction of the wetlands at the Mississippi River delta, the abominations of Lake Powell and Lake Mead in the southwestern U.S., and countless others. People like Willie Nelson, who I do admire, push the "innovations" of bio-diesel and ethanol fuels with noble intentions. But those intentions will ultimately fail just as surely as fossil fuels have failed us. Because they require us to turn part of the natural world into a commodity. And for the time being, we have proven ourselves incapable of achieving mass production without mass destruction.

One of the reasons I admire Temple Grandin (there's a link to her website somewhere on the right of this site) is that she's made it her cause to try and convert factory farms and other large animal operations to more humane systems. She uses her gift of autism to see the world of animals through their eyes and it's a truly remarkable feat. I only hope she becomes busier than ever, though, and is able to monitor and perhaps make improvements to the growing factory farm system in the U.S.

I encourage you to read a bit about her and her contributions to animal welfare in the world of industry. And I encourage you to read a bit about factory farming and the abysmal, appalling conditions that are inherent. I know it's hard to devote the energy to it, but we all really should stop to consider more where our food comes from and the more troubling "costs" which we are discouraged from acknowledging as a society.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fool me once, shame on...shame on you. Fool can't get fooled again...

Just in case anyone thinks that Donald Rumsfeld's resignation was a sign of change...

The Carlyle White House
by William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t Columnist

Tuesday 14 November 2006

It was bad enough when the Carlyle Group bought Dunkin' Donuts last year, forcing millions of conscientious caffeine addicts to look elsewhere for their daily fix. Now, it appears Carlyle has added 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to its formidable portfolio of acquisitions.

The Carlyle Group achieved national attention in the early days of the Iraq occupation, especially after Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" exposed the firm's umbilical ties to the Bush family and the House of Saud. For the uninitiated, Carlyle is a privately-owned equity firm organized and run by former members of the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations.

Currently, Carlyle manages more than $44 billion in 42 different investment funds, which is an interesting fact in and of itself: Carlyle could lay claim to only a meager $12 billion in funds in December of 2001. Thanks to their ownership of United Defense Industries, a major military contractor that sells a whole galaxy of weapons systems to the Pentagon, Carlyle's profits skyrocketed after the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Some notable present and former employees of Carlyle include former president George H.W. Bush, who resigned in 2003; James Baker III, Bush Sr.'s secretary of state and king fixer; and George W. Bush, who served on Carlyle's board of directors until his run for the Texas governorship. One notable former client of Carlyle was the Saudi BinLaden Group, which sold its investment back to the firm a month after the September 11 attacks. Until the October 2001 sellout, Osama bin Laden himself had a financial interest in the same firm that employed the two presidents Bush.

How has Carlyle managed to acquire the White House? The newest edition of Newsweek begins to tell the tale in a story titled "The Rescue Squad": "Bush Senior has been relegated to watching all those political talk shows his son refuses to watch, wincing each time he hears his son's name being mocked or criticized. George H.W. Bush has been, in effect, sidelined by nepotism. He has repeatedly told close friends that he does not believe it is appropriate or wise to second-guess his son, or even offer advice beyond loving support. This time, however, was different. A source who declined to be identified discussing presidential confidences told NEWSWEEK that Bush 41 left 'fingerprints' on the Rumsfeld-Gates decision, though the father's exact role remains shrouded in speculation."

There is much more to this than Big George simply trying to shove Little George in a different direction, because Big George never travels alone. All of a sudden, two of the elder's main men - James Baker III and Robert Gates - are back in the saddle. Baker has spent the last weeks riding herd over the Iraq Study Group, a collection of old foreign policy hands tasked to come up with a solution to the Iraq debacle. Gates was a member of this group until he was tapped to replace Don Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. The Iraq Study Group is slated to produce some tablets of wisdom come December.

A third member of the Iraq Study Group, former congressman Lee Hamilton, is the rope that ties this curious historical package together. During the Reagan days, Hamilton was chairman of the committee investigating the Iran/Contra scandal that nearly submarined Reagan's presidency and haunted Bush Sr. until his defeat in 1992. In essence, Hamilton took Reagan's people at their word when they assured the chairman that neither Reagan nor Bush were "in the loop" regarding the arms-for-hostages deal.

History and investigation have proven this to be quite separate from the truth, and Hamilton later admitted he should not have bought what Reagan's people were selling. The fact remains, however, that Hamilton let these guys slip the noose during what was, at the time, an investigation into one of the most serious abrogations of Constitutional law in our history. It is worthwhile to note that the man who brought the most pressure upon Hamilton within Congress to be "bipartisan" and avoid a protracted investigation was then-Wyoming representative Dick Cheney.

One of the men spared prosecution in the Iran/Contra scandal, thanks in no small part to the gentility of Mr. Hamilton, was Robert Gates. Gates, then a senior official within the CIA, was widely believed to have been neck-deep in the plot. During the investigation into the scandal, Gates parroted Reagan and claimed not to remember when he knew what he knew about everything that was happening down in Ollie North's office. In 1991, he was nominated and eventually appointed to be the head of CIA by Bush Sr. During his confirmation hearings, according to the New York Times, it was revealed that "Mr. Gates [had] distorted intelligence reports so they would conform to the political beliefs of his superiors."

That sounds familiar.

Gates's nomination to the post of secretary of defense was field-generaled behind the scenes by James Baker III, who has suddenly taken on a muscular role within the Bush White House since the spectacular Republican wipeout during the midterm elections last Tuesday. Baker's return, along with the new prominence of Bush Sr., has been hailed in the mainstream press as a healthy step toward stability and sanity.

One is forced to wonder, however, which masters Mr. Baker is actually serving. Baker's Carlyle Group has profited wildly from the conflict in Iraq, which begs the question: will the bottom line, augmented by Carlyle's defense contracts, trump any attempts to establish a just and lasting peace? It must also be noted that Baker's law firm, Baker Botts, is currently serving as defense counsel for Saudi Arabia against a suit brought by the families of 9/11 victims. The connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royals have been discussed ad nauseam, and Mr. Baker is so closely entwined with the Bush clan that he might as well be a blood relative.

The weakening of George W. Bush, in short, has opened the door for an alumnus of the Iran/Contra scandal, Robert Gates, to gain control of the Pentagon - his nomination, as yet, has met with little Congressional resistance. This process was managed by James Baker, whose Carlyle Group made billions off the Iraq occupation and whose fealty to the American people has all too often taken a back seat to the needs and desires of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. These two, along with Hamilton, have been instrumental in crafting, by way of the Iraq Study Group, what by all accounts will soon be America's foreign policy lynchpin in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.

Behind it all is George H.W. Bush, former employee of Carlyle, who has somehow managed to refashion his reputation into that of a grandfatherly, level-headed, steady hand, a foreign policy "realist" whose mere presence will soothe and calm the troubled waters we sail in. Unfortunately, his "realism" is a significant reason the United States finds itself in its current mess - until the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was a boon confederate of both the Reagan and Bush administrations in their fight against Iran - and the team of experts he has brought with him have done more to undermine the national security of the country than any other three people one could name.

The winner in all this, of course, is the Carlyle Group. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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