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Saturday, February 25, 2006

War Stories from Iraq

I don't even remember how I found this site, From NYC. Freelance journalist/photographer, Brian Palmer, is embedded with the U. S. Marine Charlie Company at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq.

Every time I hear our non-com militarist leaders Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney or George Bush wax on about how democracy is taking a foothold in Iraq, how the Iraqi Army is almost ready to take over stabilization efforts, how the insurgency is in its "last throes" - I wonder how courageous these men would be, how decisive they would be about sending young men off to a pre-emptive war if they themselves were actually embedded with the Marines for just a short time. Here are some excerpts from Palmer's blog:

The shooting is loud and furious and disorienting, particularly to me. This is my first real firefight. I point my video camera at the loudest clump of shooting. I pan to my right toward Marino and his team as they fire rounds into the field at an enemy I can't see. I’m trying to concentrate on the action happening in the viewfinder while keeping my head parallel to the mud . . .

Someone spots something or someone moving in the canal among the reeds. A wounded, possibly dead, fighter is either hiding or dying.Gunfire erupts again. I peer through the swaying stalks but see nothing. Marino and the Laube spot the body. Marino puts two final bullets into the man. All I see is a spray of blood after the second shot. That’s the fourth and final “enemy KIA” . . .

I crouch behind a berm with Marino and a squad of Marines. “Thirty seconds!” Corpsman Chin shouts. Then, Boom! The Explosive Ordnance Demolition team has “blown in place” two of the dead fighters, one of whom wore the suicide vest. (The other carried a grenade with the detonation pin pulled, Marines said.) “Stand by for body parts,” shouts a grunt. I don’t hear anything hit the ground after the blast, but as I walk back to the farmhouse, I notice moist coin-size bits of pink, brown, and red glistening in the dirt. I identify one chunk as a piece of liver. Corpsman Chin corrects me. “That’s lung."

These kinds of images and stories won't be seen on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and certainly not Fox News, which yesterday had their neocon intellectuals speculating over the question, "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?". There are just a few degrees of detachment here in America, as we sit in our recliners watching filtered news clips from our very own war of choice.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Reluctant Meme Quartets

Doc Larry at Lost Chord (who I'd like to meet after reading his interesting work history) tagged this space. Like the Doc, I give this curmudgeonly reply:

Four Jobs I've Had
1. Janitor
2. Photographer
3. Personnel Manager
4. Teacher

Four Places I've Lived
1. Toronto, Ontario
2. North Hollywood, CA
3. Fair Grove, MO
4. Springfield, MO

Four Movies I'd Watch Again
1. As Good As It Gets
2. My Life As A Dog
3. Life of Brian
4. Off the Map

Four TV Shows I Love
1. Seinfeld
2. Bob Newhart
3. Frontline
4. Daily Show (when I had cable)

Four Places I've Vacationed
1. Negril, Jamaica
2. all over Ontario
3. Old Route 66 'tween here and points west
4. Buffalo River Cabin

Four Favorite Dishes
1. Han's Chicken w/kimchi (Korea House)
2. Casper's Chili (w/lots of crackers)
3. Burrito Enchilada Style (half order please, lots of hot sauce)
4. Sunday breakfast at home with the paper

Four Sites I Visit Daily
1. Truthout.org
2. Slate
3. News-Leader online
4. Huffington Post

Four Places I'd Rather Be
1. You mean actual locales?
2. Or places, like Hammons Field?
3. Or maybe having a drink listening to a good band
4. Or on a beach somewhere warm.

Four Books I Loved
1. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
2. Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy
3. Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
4. Underworld by Don DeLillo

Four Video Games I Love
1. None - I'm a little behind the curve on this.

Four Tags
1. Everybody I link to has already been tagged.
2. Dick Cheney (should be tagged on his ear so he can be tracked)
3. Dee Wampler (Season's Greetings Asshole!)
4. South Dakota Legislature (real hard)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cheney Tool Decries Media "Jihad"

Things got a little dicey on Meet the Press today as Cheney spokesperson, Mary Matalin, in a typical Bush administration maneuver, went on the attack, attempting to put the media on the defensive and dodge the persistent questions about inconsistencies in the Cheney hunting story. MTP host, Tim Russert, allowed Matalin to spin freely for half the show, which left prescious little time for rebuttals or follow-up questions.

Matalin, in an exchange with NBC White House correspondent David Gregory, decried the media "jihad" against Vice President Cheney. She then described NY Times columnist and Cheney critic, Maureen Dowd, who sat across the table, as "the diva of the smart set." Dowd's response was the clearest statement of the broadcast:

The reason this story has evoked such fascination is because the vice president is like the phantom. You know, we hear the creak of the door as he passes, but we don't really know what he's up to. We don't know his schedule. We don't always know where he is. We don't know what democratic institution he's blowing off at any given minute, and so this allowed us to see how his behavior and judgment operated pretty much in real time -- with the delay, but pretty much in real time. ... And it covered all the problems of the Bush/Cheney administration: secrecy and stonewalling, then blowing off the rules that are at the heart of our democracy, then using a filter to try and put the truth out in a way that would most suit their political needs, and then bad political judgment in bungling a crisis. I mean, if there's one thing the Republicans are great at since Reagan, it's damage control. But he is such a control freak, you know, he doesn't even care about the damage. ... Mary, it isn't only the press. He blows off the FISA courts, he blows off the Geneva Conventions, he blows off the U.N. to go to Iraq. He wants to blow off everything. He's got a fever of about presidential erosion just the way he had a fever about going into Iraq.

Granted, the whole story became an obsession with the press, but when you're as dark and secretive and powerful as Cheney, what do you expect? Characterizing the media attention as a "jihad" cleverly brings the language of the ever-present War On Terror to the table, which effectively shuts off any meaningful debate. Well done, Mary - you've proven an old adage to be true - dogs really do take on their owners' personality traits.

There's a pretty good in-depth piece on Cheney in the latest Newsweek, entitled: The Shot Heard Round the World.

But it's not that big a story, really. Two guys out hunting with two women - not their wives, just a couple of nice Republican women - not drinking anything. Well, drinking just a little. Then, one of the men is accidentally shot in the face and neck at fairly close range (They claim 30 yards, but could that many pellets land in so condensed a space and penetrate a hunting jacket, clothing and lodge in the liver and heart? I'm not a hunter, can anybody enlighten here?).

Later, it turns out that the "eyewitness", Katherine Armstrong (described as "eyewitness" no fewer than six times in the news conference), who at first said she didn't know what was going on and assumed Cheney had suffered another heart attack, is somehow, just a day later, able to recall viewing the entire event with some detail.

And what about the other woman, Pamela Willeford? She was reportedly standing right next to Cheney when he fired. Who is she? Where was Lynne? We know that Willeford is the current ambassador to Switzerland and that she is figurehead president of Pico Drilling Company (oil drilling equip).

Is Pamela Willeford Dick Cheney's lover? Were there semen stains on her camouflage? Does she, in fact, bear some responsibility for Dick's premature firing? Where is Kenneth Starr when you need him?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cheney Shoots From the Hip Again

Dick Cheney accidentally shot his hunting partner today - or yesterday. I think the story was held 24 hours for some reason, perhaps to avoid the Sunday morning talk show circuit. This raises all kinds of questions:

1) What is a guy with all kinds of health problems doing out tromping around with a shotgun?
2) How will Bill Clinton ultimately bear the responsibility for this?
3) Why wasn't Scalia with him when it could really do the country some good?
4) Will the public finally understand that this guy hasn't been shooting straight since he took office?
5) Is this the real reason why he had five deferments during the draft?
6) Will Rove spin the blame for this on the victim for stepping in front of Cheney's target?
7) Is Elmer Fudd really a heartbeat away from the presidency?

I've got to see Leno, Letterman and Stewart tomorrow night.

Radical Fundamentalists in Education

The King Fahd Academy in Bonn, Germany is a Saudi-funded private school for the children of Islamic families in the area. A few months ago, a German television station smuggled a camera into an academy classroom and recorded a teacher inciting a holy war in the name of Allah and advocating martial-arts training for their young Islamic terrorists of the future.

According to an article in Newsweek, "the Saudi government pumps tens of millions of dollars every year into such institutions around the world, including Islamic centers, mosques and schools named for King Fahd in Los Angeles, Moscow, Edinburgh and Malaga, Spain."

After the television station aired their hidden footage, the German government vowed to shut down the Bonn school, but quickly did an about-face after conferring with Saudi government officials. The Germans eventually backed down completely, citing "foreign policy reasons". A government spokesman recently praised the Kind Fahd school as an "important cultural institution" that contributed to good Saudi-German relations. Proving once again that when push comes to shove, links to money and oil outweigh any considerations about fighting institutionalized propaganda. Didn't the 9/11 terrorists hatch their plan in Germany?

Much has been said about how radical Islamic schools have been breeding young terrorists around the world, but then I read about another fundamentalist group spreading propaganda right here in the U. S., and the Bush administration seems to be doing everything in their power to help them spread their message of ignorance and mind control.

I'm talking here about those that espouse a complete rejection of instruction regarding evolution in the science classroom in favor of creationism. This does not bode well for the future of this country, especially when you consider the Bush administration (and our own boy-governor) is pushing public funding of private schools - where they can freely teach this anti-science propaganda to impressionable children.

A piece in the LA Times called "Their Own Version of a Big Bang" tells the story of a well-financed and popular (among Christian fundamentalists) new evangelical push that teaches children to openly question their science instruction. Austrailian evangelist, Ken Ham, is just one of many who have made a good living traveling around the country propagating this new brand of backward-thinking religious propaganda on thousands of school children.

During a recent stop at a school in New Jersey, Ham encouraged a group of 2,300 elementary school children, with the help of dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.

"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?" The children roared as one, "Yes!".

Then he further works them into a frenzied state by leading them in cheers.

"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.
"God!" the boys and girls shouted.
"Who's the only one who knows everything?"
"God!"
"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"The children answered with a thundering:
"God!"

How different is this from impressionable children in radical Islamic school chanting "Allah" at the exhortations of their fundamentalist indoctrinators?

"Who will help us fight the American infidel?"
"Allah!"
"Who will lead us in the jihad against the great Satan?"
"Allah!"

Evangelist Ham, a former biology teacher, likes to say that he is arming his youngsters with "Christian Patriot missiles" during his seminars and Christian pep rallies. The name of his ministry is called "Answers in Genesis".

According to the Times, this kind of "creation evangelism" has become a booming industry, with churches, colleges, private schools and rotary clubs providing venues for anti-evolutionary rallies.

With pulpit-thumping passion, Ham insists the Bible be taken literally: God created the universe and all its creatures in six 24-hour days, roughly 6,000 years ago. Answers in Genesis has an annual budget of $15 million to produce DVD's and home school materials. One popular seller is an alphabet rhyme that begins, "A is for Adam, God made him from dust / He wasn't a monkey, he looked just like us."

Ham's well-publicized speaking tours are supposedly booked three years in advance, and I see he does have Missouri listed on his itinerary. If you were wanting to preach this kind of baloney to Missourians, which part of the state would you pick?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cartoon Mohammad, Hollywood Jesus

I received an odd piece of mail last week from an organization calling itself Saint Matthew's Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Of course, I'm immediately suspicious of any kind of religious material emanating from Tulsa, where Oral Roberts proffered up his peculiar brand of evangelical dementia.

This mailing contained a "Church Prayer Rug" depicting a rather effeminate image of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, with his eyes closed, wearing the obligatory crown of thorns. At the bottom of the "rug", which was really nothing more than an 11 x 17 sheet of paper printed on both sides, there were some basic instructions.

Look into Jesus' Eyes you will see they are closed. But as you continue to look you will see His eyes opening and looking back into your eyes. Then go and be alone and kneel on the Rug of Faith or touch it to both knees. Then please check your needs on our letter to you. Please return this Prayer Rug. Do not keep it.

Cool! Sort of like a Highlights Magazine optical puzzle for believers. I gazed into his eyes, and sure enough, he stared back at me, somewhat cross-eyed.

There was an addressed, pre-paid mail envelope enclosed along with a checklist of prayer request that included: My Soul, A Closer Walk With Jesus, My Health, Confusion in My Home, My Children, To Stop a Bad Habit, A New Car . . . and on.

This Saint Matthew's Church, of course, wanted some compensation for petitioning the Lord on my behalf. They call it a "seed gift". The enclosed testimonials told of a woman in Maryland who mysteriously received $46,888.20 after sending in her prayer rug. "If I may have more blessings come again, I would like to help others," she said. Another woman testified that "God blessed us with $10,700. We went out and bought us a car!."

We all know this bogus St. Matthew's Church is not mainstream Christianity, but the truth is that churches have been using images of Christ to save souls and raise revenue for centuries. Hollywood has even exploited images of "The Christ" to churn up money. This is perhaps why so many westerners find it hard to understand why Islamic true believers get so bent out of shape when somebody prints a cartoon caricature of Mohammad in a newspaper.

Which image is more obscene? The one intended to persuade the ignorant to send money in the name of God, or the one that makes a political statement about violence and the killing of innocents in the name of God?

This weekend, thousands of frothing Islamic demonstrators took to the streets in Afghanistan, the West Bank, Iraq and New Zealand, and Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria were set on fire by mobs who charged past security barriers.
All because of a cartoon image.

I'm wondering if maybe I should try to organize a march on Tulsa.

Emergencies, Evangelicals & Saluting the Troops

A child was kidnapped in St. Charles, Missouri last week. St. Charles is 200 miles away, but my phone went off like a damn fire alarm. S...