Take It As Red

"Blogging is, by its very nature, erratic and irregular, feverish effort punctuated by random silence, a conundrum wrapped in a contradiction wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an unclosed em tag. " - The Poor Man

Friday, February 25


The Ultimate Teabag

Ok, so now I'm in a complete quandary. I really want the squid t-shirt, but hot damn, a diamond encrusted teabag. For the PG tips fanatic, that really is the Holy Grail.

75,000 pounds? Mere chump change to the blogger.

Not that PG tips is much cheaper here in NL, they're 5 euro for a box of 80. That's around a 400% markup from the UK price of approximately one pound twenty or so , and to someone like me who can drink around 10 cups of tea a day, that's fair old expense. I have tried Dutch teabags, but if you open them up and look inside they're filled with teadust; literally, the sweepings left over when the leaves are used for the good tea brands. They taste stale and dusty and make a lousy cup of tea. the only Dutch tea I have any time for is Max Havelaar's organic Engelse melange, but they're so expensive I may as well make the effort to go and get PG tips, however extortionate the cost.
"The diamond teabag worth £7,500 has been made by Boodles jewellers to celebrate PG Tips 75th birthday. The tea bag took three months to make has been hand-crafted using 280 diamonds. Pete Harbour, spokesman for PG Tips said: "As it's our 75th birthday, we wanted to do something special to remind people just how much they love the great British cup of tea. The tea bag will eventually be used as part of a prize draw to raise money for Manchester Children's Hospitals, a charity chosen by workers at the PG Tips factory in Trafford Park, Manchester."
Sign me up, how much are the tickets?



Condi Shows Her Inner Eichmann

"Rice's coat and boots speak of sex and power -- such a volatile combination, and one that in political circles rarely leads to anything but scandal. When looking at the image of Rice in Wiesbaden, the mind searches for ways to put it all into context. It turns to fiction, to caricature. To shadowy daydreams. Dominatrix! It is as though sex and power can only co-exist in a fantasy. When a woman combines them in the real world, stubborn stereotypes have her power devolving into a form that is purely sexual."
"Rice challenges expectations and assumptions. There is undeniable authority in her long black jacket with its severe details and menacing silhouette. The darkness lends an air of mystery and foreboding. Black is the color of intellectualism, of abstinence, of penitence. If there is any symbolism to be gleaned from Rice's stark garments, it is that she is tough and focused enough for whatever task is at hand."

For heaven's sake won't someone, somewhere, please put the Washington Post out of its misery? Either that or retire this writer, Robin Givhan, to the Sunshine Home For Has-been Hacks, where she can suck up her Condi-koolaid in peace and quiet?

Robin Givhan

Call yourself a fashion editor, Ms Givhan? Your slip is showing... and have you never read about decent foundation garments?

No wonder all those Washington women look like spray-glossed ragbags if they take your advice. Oh, and shell-pink, howver fashionable, is so not your colour.



'Bring me Your Poor Your Huddled Masses, Yearning To Be...Tortured?"

I can remember, back in 2001, being outraged by the rounding up of Middle-Eastern people by law enforcement in the US, apparently on the grounds that they were a] brown-skinned and b] not American. I've always wondered what happened to those poor people: well now we know. Many were imprisoned and tortured, many deported; hardly any were charged with any offence, and none were convicted, as a result of Operation Liberty Shield.


"...police stopped an Amtrak train bound for Penn Station and took ten passengers in for questioning. All but one were eventually released; the one was held on charges unrelated to the hijackings. Meera Kumar, who works for the Ford Motor Company, was among the passengers held. "We're in a terrible emergency," Kumar told a reporter later. "But I'm a full-fledged tax-paying United States citizen. I shouldn't have been subjected to this, nor should anybody else."

A new Middle Eastern restaurant just blocks from St. Vincent's Hospital,the closest trauma center to the site of the World Trade Center, began putting American flags in its window and displaying a blackboard calling its cuisine Israeli, after several ominous incidents; in one, a customer told a waitress that he had a gun."

Not long after this the US mmigration service got all antsy about Middle Eastern immigrants and started calling them in for interview. What happened next?


Operation Liberty Shield:A New Series of Interviews of Iraqi-Born Individuals in the U.S. Is The Latest Example of Dragnet Justice

By ANITA RAMASASTRY ---- Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2003

Recently, the FBI commenced a round of interviews of "a number of
Iraqi-born individuals" residing throughout the United States - both citizens
and non-citizens alike. 50,000 Iraqi nationals are on the list; 11,000 have so
far been targeted for interviews. No one seems to know what the criteria are, by
which the 11,000 were chosen.

The "voluntary" interviews are
part of a program initiated by the Department of Homeland Security known as
Operation Liberty Shield. Their purpose is "to elicit information that may be
useful to the U.S. government in the event of hostilities in Iraq."
Interestingly, the interview program is listed under the heading "Monitoring
Terrorist Suspects

This new wave of interviews is the latest round of dragnet justice. Once again, federal law enforcement has cast an overly broad net in the hope of uncovering leads in its fight against terrorism and its war in Iraq.

Last year, the government did not claim concrete benefits from a similar type of time-consuming dragnet initiatives aimed at Middle Eastern men in the U.S. on visitor visas. And it's not surprising: What terrorist would show up for "voluntary" interview? And even if one did, wouldn't he be carefully prepared to lie adeptly?

Over the past year-and-a-half, the federal government has engaged in various rounds of interviews of immigrants present in the U.S., and has compiled extensive information as a result of its interviews.

For example, in the fall of 2001, the government conducted "voluntary" interviews of 5,000 men of Middle Eastern background between the ages of 18 and 33 who were present in the U.S. on visitor visas. Could the men bring attorneys? The "invitation" to appear did not say. As I noted an earlier column, these interviews asked individuals to divulge highly personal information- where they worshipped, who their friends were, the names, addresses and phone numbers of their friends and colleagues. By creating robust profiles of interviewees and their associates, the federal government was likely able to build a profile of entire communities and their daily lives.

Those Americans who feel this effort is reasonable should consider this scenario: How would you feel if - in a foreign country facing national security threats, where you were studying or working - you were rounded up by a foreign intelligence entity, and questioned in this highly personal fashion, simply because of your national origin?

I believe most Americans would see this treatment as both terrifying and unfair. That then raises the question of why we don't see our own treatment of Middle Eastern visitors the same way.


More recently, the federal government instituted a special registration process for
foreign men from Middle Eastern countries, or countries with large Muslim populations. These men must register with immigration authorities either at a port of entry or a designated immigration office in accordance with the special registration procedures.
Again, as in the Fall 2001 round of interviews, an intrusive battery of questions is asked. In addition, visitors are fingerprinted and photographed. At last count, approximately 102,000 men have registered.

Can the persons interviewed have counsel present if they choose? The Department of Justice, and federal regulations, say yes. But the reality is often different. According to the ACLU, Georgia and Washington, DC immigration officials have stated that lawyers may be excluded from portions of the registration process. Further reports indicate that regional offices in Florida, New York, Texas and Illinois have also blocked attorneys from accompanying their clients.

In addition, even where attorneys are technically allowed, visitors may not be able to afford them, or may simply be too intimidated to use them.

To add to all these problems, the guidelines for these interview processes have not always been well publicized. Understandably, they have therefore caused fear and confusion in immigrant communities in the United States.

The Special Registration process had also had surprising consequences. Individuals who were in the process of having their permanent resident paperwork processed or their visa status lawfully changed found themselves being rounded up and detained when they arrived to register in California and other states. "

Hmm, I wonder whatever happened to those people who were detained? This:

  • 2005

    'Brooklyn's Abu Ghraib'
    "Terror suspects allege abuse


    Some prisoners held at Brooklyn's federal Metropolitan Detention Center say they were abused by guards. Defense attorneys call it Brooklyn's Abu Ghraib. On the ninth floor of the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, terrorism suspects swept off the streets after the Sept. 11 attacks were repeatedly stripped naked and frequently were physically abused, the Justice Department's inspector general has found.

    The detainees - none of whom were ultimately charged with anything related to terrorism - alleged in sworn affidavits and in interviews with Justice Department officials that correction officers:

    Humiliated them by making fun of - and sometimes painfully squeezing - their genitals. Deprived them of regular sleep for weeks or months.

  • Shackled their hands and feet before smashing them repeatedly face-first into concrete walls - within sight of the Statue of Liberty.

  • Forced them in winter to stand outdoors at dawn while dressed in light cotton prison garb and no shoes, sometimes for hours.

  • "In December, they left me outside for more than four hours [wearing] only a jumpsuit and a light prison coat," Ahmed Khalifa, an Egyptian, told the Daily News. "I asked them to let me inside. They were laughing and pointing to me. When I finally got back inside, I felt like I had frostbite."

The Justice Department's inspector general has substantiated some of the prisoners' allegations - and some incidents were captured on videotape. But the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any federal correction officer at MDC.

"I was informed the videos amounted to nothing more than shoving, but no serious injuries," said one Justice Department official, who would speak only on condition he not be identified.
But Inspector General Glenn Fine, whose staff reviewed 380 MDC videotapes, reported in 2003 that "These tapes substantiated many of the detainees' allegations." Furthermore, the officers were not just a few bad apples but "a significant percentage of those who had regular contact with the detainees," Fine wrote last March.

The Justice Department currently is reconsidering its rejection of a News Freedom of Information request for the tapes, after the paper filed an appeal.

Meanwhile, interviews by The News with 12 ex-detainees - all but one now deported for visa violations - and a review of sworn complaints filed against the Bureau of Prisons adds shocking detail to the earlier findings of what occurred at MDC.

The picture that emerges mirrors some of the abuses the International Committee of the Red Cross denounced recently as "tantamount to torture" when inflicted by U.S. military authorities on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Wael Kishk, an Egyptian student who was unable to walk, alleges he was beaten by guards on Feb. 15, 2002 - the same day he complained to a judge in open court about earlier mistreatment at MDC. When guards were returning him to the jail that day, he says they threw him into the back of a transport bus with his hands cuffed behind his back and his ankles shackled close together. Kishk, now in Cairo, recalled landing painfully on the floor, face down, unable to break his fall.

Back at MDC, said Kishk, the guards piled him into a wheelchair and took him to a room where they stripped him and "started stomping on me."

"There were three of them - with their leader, four," Kishk said. "They took all my clothes off and turned me on my stomach. Then, the leader put his foot on the back of my neck and told me, 'All of this is so you will stop playing games,'" an apparent reference to his statements in court.

Rami Dahmany, another Egyptian inmate, alleged he was injured by two guards - Michael McCabe and Christopher Witschel - when he complained about a strip search. They grabbed an already injured finger on his right hand and bent it painfully far back, then twisted it hard.
"They saw the finger was damaged," said Dahmany, speaking by phone from Egypt. "I still have an injury from that. I can't fold my hand. The finger stands up all the time."

McCabe and Witschel are accused of similar conduct in a lawsuit filed by other former inmates.
Witschel declined comment. McCabe could not be reached.

All the detainees complained of frequent strip searches - sometimes six a day - even though they remained continuously isolated in solitary confinement or were shackled when taken to court hearings.

Ehab ElMaghraby, a restaurant worker from Egypt, alleges in a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons that MDC guard Steven Barrere inserted a flashlight into his rectum during a strip search while other guards looked on. ElMaghraby said he saw blood on the withdrawn flashlight. Two other MDC officials - Michael DeFrancisco and Raymond Cotton - inserted a pencil into his rectum during other searches, ElMaghraby alleged.

Barrere's attorney, James Ryan, denounced ElMaghraby's allegations as "factually baseless." Cotton's attorney, Nicholas Kaizer, labeled ElMaghraby's charges "preposterous," adding, "ElMaghraby is trying to get rich through these fanciful claims."

Kishk, who has not filed any lawsuit, described strip searches in which a guard would grab his genitals "so hard, it hurt badly" - a charge echoed by Egyptian detainee Ashraf Ibrahim in a suit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

"There's a lot more I can't describe," said Kishk. "It was very degrading." Oded Ellner - one of five Israeli Jewish terrorist suspects - said he sought medical help after MDC's allegedly meager, often spoiled meals left him with severe dysentery symptoms. The doctor came with five guards and a camera, he said. She then ordered him to strip and shift his backside into a small space in the cell door so she could conduct a rectal exam from outside the cell.

"I'm a human being, not an animal!" Ellner said he shouted. "I have a right to an exam." The guards, he said, "just laughed," and all walked away.

The prisoners interviewed by The News were part of a group of 84 detainees jailed at MDC between Sept. 11, 2001, and September 2002. Some 1,200 such immigrants were jailed nationwide, including 400 in nearby Passaic County, N.J., where abuses were also reported.
Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons, said that her agency began an investigation of abuse allegations last April - it is still ongoing - after the Justice Department decided not to prosecute anyone.

"Any substantiated incident will be addressed with appropriate disciplinary action and, where appropriate, criminal prosecution," she said.

Robert Nardoza, spokesman for the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, which participated in the criminal investigation, said government efforts to prosecute alleged abusers at MDC were frustrated when six inmates who had complained of abuse chose deportation to their home countries rather than continued imprisonment until a possible trial at some point where they might testify as witnesses.

Nardoza referred further questions to the department's Civil Rights Division. He would not say whether prosecutors pursued options such as video depositions from abroad, closed-circuit TV testimony or even temporarily returning ex-inmates here to testify.

Civil Rights Division spokesman Eric Holland has refused to talk with The News. None of the inmates who spoke to The News said they were ever asked to testify. All said they were ready to do so.

"It's a whitewash," said Steven Leegan, an attorney for Indian Muslim inmate Mohammed Jaweed Azmat. "This was a mini-Abu Ghraib in Brooklyn."

In fact, "It was worse," he said, "because these were not guardsmen thrown together but supposedly highly trained federal corrections officers doing the same thing long before we sent troops into Iraq."

"I was very trusting of the system," said Kishk. "I was infatuated and overtaken by your ideals of tolerance."

"I got the flip side of all the ideals I believed America held." "



Occasional Ceph Blogging No.8

Via Squidblog, your source for all things ceph-related. I so want one of these, I can't sit still for yearning. How long is it till my birthday? Too long. Ooh, it's easter soon, I feel the need for a chocolate substitute, and this is it.



"I Hate The Dutch"

If anyone has the .mp3 of this please, pretty please, send it to me. I want it played at my funeral ( after I've been fatally mauled by hordes of foaming- at- the- mouth autochtoons that is).

"I Hate the Dutch"
John Dowie
[1977, EP "Another Close Shave"].

[Lalalala - Dick van Dyke]

I'm a British Tourist and I'm very, very rude.
I hate the stinking foreigners
hate their stinking food
I don't like French or Germans
I don't care for Belgians much
But worst of all worst of all
I hate the Dutch
The Dutch, the Dutch
I hate them worse than dogs.
They live in windmills
and mince around in clogs.
They don't have any manners
They don't say 'thanks' or 'please'
all they eat is tulips
and stinking gouda cheese...
I'm a British tourist with a countenance severe
I love to strike the foreign type
And box their poxied ears
But there's one woggy dago
I cannot bear to touch
The slimy crawling
stench appalling
snotty grotty Dutch
The Dutch are mad
Their fingers stuck in dikes
They use the wrong side of the road
And ride around on bikes
They don't have any manners,
don't have any brains.
There's only one race worse than them
and that's... THE BLOODY DANES!


Thursday, February 24

Canada Opts Out of U.S. Defense Shield

"TORONTO - Prime Minister Paul Martin said Thursday that Canada would opt out of the contentious U.S. missile defense program, a move that will further strain brittle relations between the neighbors but please Canadians who fear it could lead to an international arms race.
When Bush visited Canada in December, he surprised Ottawa by making several unsolicited pitches for support of the defense shield, which is in the midst of testing interceptors capable of destroying incoming missiles targeted at North America.

Martin, who leads a tenuous minority government, has said Ottawa would not support what he called the "weaponization of space." Though he initially supported joining the program when he was a candidate for the Liberal leadership, Martin has retreated, since polls indicate that a majority of Canadians oppose it. Many believe that the umbrella, when fully implemented, could lead to an international arms race."

Canada's parliament has also voted for extra money to secure its border with the US. Seems a sensible move to me. Good fences make good neighbours, especially when the neighbour is a behemoth with an uncertain temper and a fondness for war, pollution and reckless spending.
The US is constantly pushing Canada to allow their security apparatus operate over the border.
The cult of fundamentalism has also spread north, and fundies have taken control of the Canadian Alliance, Canada’s second-largest political party and the official parliamentary opposition to the ruling Liberals. Unfortunately there is a movement in Canadian conservative evangelical business types which identifies with the US Republican party. They seem determined to remove the border entirely; not just to trade but also monetarily and militarily, a Greater North America. Call it leibensraum. Conspiring with a foreign nation to subvert your own country's government sounds treasonous to me. If I were Canadian I would not feel very secure with such quislings around. Those still-optimistic Americans who look to Canada as a safe haven should worry too. While it's cheering to see the Canadian PM sticking out against Bush, he is electorally on shaky ground, and we've all see what fundies can do to a once reality-based ( for certain values of reality) nation.
Correction: Commenter Green Knight has pointed out that I'm behind the times: the Alliance swallowed the old Progressive Conservative Party in a hostile takeover last year, and reconstituted itself as the Conservative Party of Canada. mea maxima culpa.



The Chocolate Soldiers

Hmmm, wonder if the Preznit will be bringing one of these uniforms home...?

(Photo copyright NYT)



Hypocritical Boot -Faced Bitch

Laura Bush was inteviewed by Rosie O 'Donnell ( ah - so it's OK to be gay now, just as long as you're in the media and can be useful, but it's not Ok for a divorced woman to stay at the WH) on MSNBC during the tour of Germany. This is what she said when asked about potential changes at the WH:

" I think we'll do more entertaining. We already have at the White House.What happened on Sept. 11, and of course the war, really made us mindful of not having a lot of lavish entertaining at the White House. What you didn't see is that my husband hosted more working dinners with heads of state than ever before. Well over a hundred heads of state."

[My emphasis]

She also said she was looking forward to appointing a new chef.

Remember the inauguration? Didn't look much like they were mindful of not having a lot of lavish entertaining then did it?

"The biggest ticket was on Wednesday at the Texas State Society's Black Tie & Boots Ball.Preparations started the day before the event to prepare 21,000 enchiladas, 20,000 quesadillas, 25,000 pastries, and 3,000 lbs (1,360kg) of beef barbeque. "

Looks damned pretty lavish to me. Hypocritical bitch.

Oh, and the chef? Laura Bush sacked Walter Scheib III, the White House's French-trained chef. He had worked at the White House for 11 years. Scheib said he got fired because he failed to meet "the first lady's stylistic requirements." There are reports that Scheib balked at White House orders to create an inaugural menu that used brand names representing food companies of top Bush campaign donors. He had to whip up entrees using ingredients such as Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Coca-Cola and Pilgrims Pride butter-basted turkeys. That other boot-faced bitch, Camilla, should be glad she won't be asked to stay.



That Bush German Visit In Full

I particularly like the '70's German porn-star flag. Are they related? I think we should be told...

(Pictures courtesy of the BBC and Creative Parties UK)



$10k Reward for Gannon Smoking Gun

A Washington DC gossip website is offering ten thousand dollars as a reward to anyone who can definitively link GFannon/Guckert to a senior member of the Bush adminsitration.

"Have you seen this man?

A wealthy Washington socialite is offering a $10,000 reward for proof that Jeff Gannon (pictured), an allegedly gay kinky-sex prostitute / escort / white house reporter / GOP operative, has had sexual relations with top-ranking government officials."


"But one thing is for sure: Jeff Gannon is on the lips of every insider in Washington D.C., and many say he's been kissing some of them, too -- for $200/ hour and $1,200 / weekend. His profiles on escort websites say he leaves no marks, only lasting impressions.

So, I ask again -- have you seen this man? Have you slept with this man? Do you know this man?

A local socialite, who wishes to remain anonymous, has teamed up with this site to offer a $10,000 reward to anyone that can provide hard proof (photos, phone pictures, locks of hair, DNA on a suit) that Jeff Gannon had ANY sexual -- or romantic -- relationship with any top-ranking officials here in Washington."

Email tips to: gannoninvestigation@kellyanncollins.com



Kinder, Kirche und Kuchen". The US Military Gets Desperate

One of the most interesting things about blogs is the comments function. I was reading a post about military recruiting at US schools at Koufax award winner Body & Soul this morning and I came across this set of photos.

Apparently the Worcester, Mass. school board arranged to take local schoolchildren on a field trip to see a show called "Spirit of America". Seems perfectly appropriate for a school trip, doesn't it? A free day out, patriotically themed, with a stage show thrown in? The trouble is, Spirit of America is

"a free, patriotic, live-action show presented by the U.S. Army Military District of Washington. Performed by more than 400 soldiers of the U.S. Army's elite ceremonial units, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," this free show features traditional and modern music, disciplined drill and historical narrative as Soldiers recap the heritage of our country in an inspiring and entertaining performance."

What it actually is, as shown in the pictures, is a barely concealed military recruiting fair. No Child Left Behind also compels US schools to provide details of all their pupils to military recruiters and children are being put under enormous pressure. The pressure to recruit on the recruiters themselves is getting more intense as fewer volunteers see joining up as an option:

"Very frankly, in a couple of places our recruiting pool is getting soft," said Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army's personnel chief. "We're hearing things like, 'Well, let's wait and see how this thing settles out in Iraq,' " he said in an interview. "For the active duty for '05 it's going to be tough to meet our goal, but I think we can. I think the telling year for us is going to be '06."

The US, along with the UK, still uses child soldiers. I personally have never been against the need for any nation to have some sort of defence force, indeed I've served myself, briefly; just so long as any such force is staffed by volunteers, adults who have made the decision to enlist of their own volition and in full awareness of the potential risks they face. Children under 18, pressured to enlist by recruiters like this, cannot possibly be said to have made such a informed decision, as by definition they are not of legal age. They can't even be trusted to have a beer.

Some students, like commenter the yeti, realise what's happening:

"I just got called by a USMC (not USMCPT, alas... ;-) recruiter tonight. I'm a senior in HS and I could fill a medium-sized room with all the mailings I've got, and I get one of these calls at least once a week. This guy in particular was persistent to the extreme. I consider myself pretty strong-minded, so I can't imagine how most of my classmates would react to him. It's very, deeply saddening to me.

And it's not like you can say, well, three of my state's national guard died yesterday, today W. refused to rule out military action against Iran, and kids across the country are saying you promise they won't have to go to war and they do anyway. Most kids my age aren't even equipped with these facts - that's why the recruiters are free to lead with, "how would you feel if you could get a free ride through college?" Subhuman, that's how I'd feel. Or else propagantastic."

Posted by: theyeti February 23, 2005 07:21 PM

So what have those children who are seduced by recruiters' promises, of free college, international travel and a lifetime career, got to look forward to? Ask Spc. Alexis Soto-Ramirez . Oh no, sorry you can't, he's dead by suicide after returning from Iraq.

Feb. 18, 2005 WASHINGTON -- Before he hanged himself with his bathrobe sash in the psychiatric ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Spc.Alexis Soto-Ramirez complained to friends about his medical treatment.Soto-Ramirez, 43, had been flown out of Iraq five months before then because of chronic back pain that became excruciating during the war. But doctors were really worried about his mind. They thought he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving with the 544th Military Police Company, a unit of the Puerto Rico National Guard, the kind of unit that saw dirty, face-to-face combat in Iraq. A copy of Soto-Ramirez's medical records, reviewed by Salon, show that a doctor who treated him in Puerto Rico upon his return from Iraq believed his mental problems were probably caused by the war and that his future was in the Army's hands. "Clearly, the psychiatric symptoms are combat related," a clinical psychologist at Roosevelt Roads Naval Hospital wrote on Nov. 24, 2003. The entry says, "Outcome will depend on adequacy and appropriateness of treatment." Doctors in Puerto Rico sent Soto-Ramirez to Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., to get the best care the Army had to offer. There, he was put in Ward 54, Walter Reed's "lockdown," or inpatient psychiatric ward, where the most troubled patients are supposed to have constant supervision.

But less than a month after leaving Puerto Rico, on Jan. 12, 2004, Soto-Ramirez was found dead, hanging in Ward 54. Army buddies who visited him in the days before his death said Soto-Ramirez was increasingly angry and despondent. "He was real upset with the treatment he was getting," said René Negron, a former Walter Reed psychiatric patient and a friend of Soto-Ramirez's. "He said: 'These people are giving me the runaround ... These people think I'm crazy, and I'm not crazy, Negron. I'm getting more crazy being up here."

It's not just schools either. The military is now using christian churches as a recruiting tool, as reported at shlonkom bakazay

"Even as I had already taken these photographs of something that I clearly know is wrong, hell we ended with “I‘m proud to be an American”, after a sermon and a combined rendition of all the services anthems. I was conflicted. I knew, and know that almost all of the people I’m depending on to bring this to light disagree with me on virtually every issue. I wasn’t going to release this unless they were recruiting. They were.

Jesus himself only got mad once. It was because merchants were using the church to sell their wares, he flipped their tables, seized a whip, and attacked them. This day the answer to “what would Jesus do?” is grab one of the m-16s laying around and start kneecapping. "
"As I leave you with the final images I plan to of two of the ancient flags that surrounded the stage, and The banner at the front door I have to express regret that even a very small portion of my country is as religiously militaristic as the whole world already believes it to be. I myself think of this as a huge fuster cluck of the balances that are already there being missed.

If you have any questions feel free to IM or PM me. I have huge 5 mega pixel raws to prove it was me. And if you still try to tell me this administration will not attack Iran, there is no way I would remotely believe you. And I even question how they will manage to do such an insane thing. Instead of a draft (at least for the mean time), we have such sick invasion of places of worship? I am not sure which is worse. Wow...wow...wow.

I'm truly speechless. This is very significant. This has to be illegal. How can this be?"

So, so far we have Kinder and Kirche. What about Kuche? The military is not yet as blatantly targeting women. But, according to the Rand corporations reccomendations they soon will be.

We recommended a number of actions to solve growing recruiting problems. Given our prediction of a shortfall in meeting the increased accession requirement, one was to increase recruiting resources, specifically by increasing budgets for advertising and educational benefits and by boosting the number of recruiters. Research shows these to be the most cost-effective resources for increasing the supply of high-quality enlistees. Another recommendation was to reduce the requirement for high-quality male accessions without prior service. This can be done by recruiting more women, accepting more prior-service accessions, or by lowering quality goals. Each of these options, however, has limits and costs that must be weighed against the costs of increasing recruiting resources"

More than 5,000 troops had deserted since the war began, CBS’s 60 Minutes reported last month. Many experts say that America’s 1.4 million active-duty troops and 865,000 part-timers are stretched to breaking point : the drain from the US military is heaviest among parttimers, who have been dragged en masse out of civilian life to serve their country with unprecedented sacrifice. For the first time in a decade, the Army National Guard missed its recruitment target by 5,000 this year. A further sign of strain can be seen in the Army’s decision this year to mobilise 5,600 former soldiers that can be mobilised theoretically only in a national emergency.

More than 183,000 National Guard and reserve troops are on active duty, compared with 79,000 before the invasion of Iraq. Forty per cent of the 138,000 troops in Iraq are part-timers who never expected to be sent to the front line. Instead, as a woman soldier pointedly reminded Donald Rumsfeld on his visit to Iraq they face “stop loss” orders that delay their return to civilian life. "Women in Uniform: Can They Save the Military?" (U.S. News & World Report, June 5, 1978) described how women are filling the post-draft manpower shortfall as sailors, parachute riggers, pilots, Minuteman missile crewmembers.

"Another soldier lost his court battle this week to stop the Army extending his one-year contract by at least two years. At least eight soldiers have turned to the courts, accusing the military of tricking them into enlisting for a fixed term without warning them that they could be forced to stay longer. Once they get out, soldiers are increasingly resisting hefty bonuses to re-enlist, an incentive that had helped to meet recruitment targets in the past. The crisis may be even deeper than the statistics suggest. Active-duty Army recruiters exceeded their target of 77,000 by 587 this year only by dipping into a pool of recruits who had not planned to report until next year, and by dropping educational standards, Mr Korb said.

At 10 per cent, the death rate among war casualties is the lowest in history. But maimed men and women are flocking home with horror stories about the war, which is claiming more and more casualties. Between June, when the Iraqi interim Government took over, and September, the average monthly casualty rate among US forces was 747 a month, compared with 482 during the invasion and 415 before the coalition government was disbanded. With elections looming next month, the toll is expected to mount.

Most soldiers keep their anger under wraps, partly out of patriotism but also out of loyalty to their units. “There’s a thin green line that you don’t cross,” said a veteran with the 4th Infantry, who deployed to Iraq last year to help to plan counterinsurgency operations and train Iraqi forces.

But at his home base in Fort Carson, Colorado, he has resisted a $10,000 re-enlistment incentive and plans to get out as soon as he can. He illustrates the long-term problem the Army faces. He served for five years, first in Korea, then in Iraq, where he was a combat soldier for almost a year. The Americans received little training for the counterinsurgency they face. “Every day you wake up alive, is a gift from above,” the soldier said. Few experts are surprised to hear that a recent army survey discovered that half the soldiers were not planning to re-enlist. Experts are divided over how stretched America’s military really is. But they agree that another conflict would put the military in overdrive. Another war would require a shift to a “no-kidding wartime posture in which everybody who could shoot was given a rifle and sent to the front,” according to John Pike, of GlobalSecurity.org."

Bush, in his European visit this week, said the idea of a strike on Iran was "Ridiculous" but seconds later reversed himself and said that "All options are still on the table". Condoleeza rice, regarded as her master's voice, has made similarly bellicose noises; there have also been reports of Special Forces squads having already being sent into Iran to reconnoitre. They are gearing up for war, but they don't have the troops.

From what has been reported so far it doesn't look as though many are being taken in by the military's increased recruiting efforts. rumour has it the Iran invasion is scheduled for June this year. How long before a draft?


Wednesday, February 23


Martian Lake Found

Sounds like SF doesn't it? But according to this report in Nature, an area up to 500 miles in width and length and 50m deep at the equator of Mars has been found to consist of ice floes.

Mars ice on the left, terrestrial ice floes on the right for comparison
(Copyright Nature magazine)

"The pictures, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board the European Space Agency's craft, show a flat plain close to Mars's equator that is covered with irregular blocky shapes. They look just like the rafts of fragmented sea ice that lie off the coast of Antarctica. The camera team presented its findings at ESA's Mars Express Science Conference in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, on 21 February. The results will be published by Nature in March.

"I was expecting glaciologists to be sceptical of our interpretation," says team member John Murray of the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK. "But when I showed the pictures to an expert on sea ice, he was utterly convinced."

The researchers think that the camera has snapped a sea that froze about 5 million years ago, and was then covered by volcanic dust.

"Five million years might sound like a long time," Murray says, "but in geological terms it is virtually yesterday. This suggests that pockets of liquid water have existed throughout Mars's geological history."

Approximately 7% of Earth's surface is covered by sea ice, which is colonized principally by psychrophilic microorganisms. This extensive community of microorganisms contains algae (mostly diatoms), protozoa, and bacteria. Recent investigations indicate that the sea ice bacteria fall into four major groups: the proteobacteria, the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroides group, and the high and low mol percent gram-positive bacteria. Archaea associated with sea ice communities have also been reported. Several novel bacterial genera and species have been discovered, including Polaromonas, Polaribacter, Psychroflexus, Gelidibacter, and Octadecabacter; many others await study. Some of the gram-negative sea ice bacteria have among the lowest maximum temperatures for growth known, <10°c>

Psychroflexus bacteria from the Antarctic

There's obviously much speculation as to whether something similar may be living in the Martian ice: extremophile bacteria have been found living in similar environments like the McMurdo dry valleys in Antarctica, and buried deep in ice millions of years old in Lake Vostok. It may be just a matter of time before life is found on Mars.


Tuesday, February 22


'Cause SUV's Are Just Soooo Last Week...

This is the Bad Boy Truck. The name says it all:

It's made by a company called Homeland Defense Vehicles; this is their sales pitch:

"The Bad Boy Truck is ready for the streets, and it’s so cool that we’ve created a new vehicle category for it, the HMT, which stands for Heavy Muscle Truck.

SUVs are yesterday, and the Bad Boy is the biggest, longest, meanest, heaviest, street-legal military conversion vehicle on the road today.

If you want ride that is tough enough to take what you dish out, the Bad Boy is ready. If you want to impress your clients and friends, take along a Bad Boy.
Be warned though, we don’t make these for just anyone.

The Bad Boy is a luxury conversion of a tactical vehicle built for the U.S. Army by Stewart & Stevenson. The diesel-powered Bad Boy is 21 feet long, 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide, and has room for three adult passengers in the front seat. The all-wheel drive vehicle can run 72 mph, and it can carry a 5,000-pound payload. It offers 22-inch ground clearance, and it can ford water 30 to 60 inches deep. It can also climb grades as steep as 60 percent. The truck comes equipped with a Central Tire Inflation System that has settings for off road, mud and snow. The tire system can also keep the tire inflated even if it has a hole the size of a quarter in the sidewall. The truck comes with a 58-gallon tank and can carry passengers 400+ miles, depending upon the payload.

For adventure seekers who want the ultimate in security and protection as they travel abroad, the Bad Boy HMT can be equipped with a cabin filtration system to protect occupants against nuclear radiation, biological contaminants and chemical agents. "
Are You Bad Enough?"

Good lord. Why?

I note that not one of the info pages gives figures for miles per gallon; but then why would it? Anyone who's in the market for one of these obviously doesn't give damn about the environment, except their own immediate environment. I can just see the chimperor and his wormtongue Karl Rove, up in their trucks riding over all the poor people as they choke to death on nuclear radiation, biological contaminants and chemical agents unleashed upon the US when they attack Iran in June... probably going 'HA HA!" a la Nelson Muntz.

Perfect for within the Beltway - I wonder which of 'em, George or Karl, will have Jeff Gannon riding shotgun. It is a 'Bad Boy' truck after all, and should appeal to all those chickenhawk military fetishists in the Republican party.

Guess where it's made? Right first time. Texas.



Hey Gannon, Over Here! Sue Me!

"Jeff Gannon, the White House correspondent forced from his job by left wing blogs is considering suing left wing bloggers for a “political assassination” that drove him from his job, according to a Newsweek Article to go to print on Feb 28.
Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, singled out Media Matters, a quasi blog that focuses on the political affiliations of the US media. "

Jeff Gannon/Guckert is a male prostitute, posing as a journalist, who posts naked pictures of himself online to get business, who lied to get a White house press pass, who has lied more than once to publications and pundits who have interviewed him, bragged about his acccess to the White House, bragged about access to secret CIA memos and who has been bankrolled in these endeavours by prominent Republican party supporters. Here he is, large as life and twice as tacky:

Truth is the absolute defence to libel. So sue me too, motherfucker.



War? What War? Quick, Look, Celebrities!

I loathe Ebony magazine. And Jet. And BET.

Why? because they are just so fake, and so Republican, and all about consumption. They teach young Black people, and not just Americans, that what it means to be Black is to be rich and live a bling lifestyle and try to look and act as white as possible. Just look at the people they feature as people to watch in the front pages of Ebony: on the face of it these are role models for today's youth, but look closer and they are all people who have swallowed the corporate pill in some way. Fratboys, fratgirls, pols and middle managers to a man and woman, and not a single inspirational leader amongst them. It's all about the benjamins. This month's features? 6 Women Who Struck It Rich ,'Sistah Celebrities' & Their 'Best Girlfriend' ,ZANE: Up Close And Personal, EBONY Legends, How To Tell If He's Cheating and the one useful item, Special Section on Diabetes. Nothing about the war, nothing about education, social security, taxes: just wall-to-wall celebrity fluff and advertising. Jet is marginally better, at least it mentions Malcolm X and Spike Lee, but again the majority of content is commercial fluff.

Bob Johnson, founder and CEO of Black Entertainment Television, is not someone I will teach my sons to look up to as an African-American inspiration: he has filled the brains of today's youth with crap via his network and has to take a huge share of the blame for young people's obsession with consumption and disposability. Bob Johnson is only the latest in a line of Black entrepreneurs who are feted for making money while doing down their own community: here's a bio of publisher John H. Johnson, who founded Ebony and Jet magazines and has been called the most influential black publisher in American history-

"...has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was honored for breaking negative stereotypes and building self-respect in the black community. Johnson is the founder, publisher, chairman and CEO of the Johnson Publishing Company Inc., Chicago, Ill., the largest black-owned publishing company in the world. Johnson is one of American's most successful entrepreneurs. A self-made man, his company is the publisher of Ebony. Through faith, self-confidence and a positive mental attitude, Johnson turned Ebony into the nation's number one African American oriented magazine with a circulation of 1.7 million and a monthly readership of 11 million. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the nation can bestow on a citizen, from President Bill Clinton in 1996. Johnson was born a descendant of slaves in Arkansas City, Ark., in 1918. His mother, Gertrude Johnson Williams, worked as a domestic and a levee cook to raise the money to move to the family to Chicago. At the time, no high schools for blacks existed in Arkansas City. Johnson repeated the eighth grade in Arkansas rather than end his education. In Chicago, Johnson graduated from DuSable High School where he was on the honor roll, served as senior class president, editor of the newspaper, and yearbook editor. Among his classmates were Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx and future entrepreneur William Abernathy. When Chicago youths made fun of Johnson's speech, he would stand in front of his mirror at home and practice speaking correctly. Because of his accomplishments, Johnson was invited to speak at a Chicago Urban League event. There African American businessman Harry Pace noticed Johnson, offering him a scholarship and a job at Pace's company, Supreme Life Insurance Company.He started Johnson Publishing in 1942 with a $500 loan against his mother's furniture. He got the idea for Negro Digest, the forerunner of Ebony, while selecting articles for Pace to keep abreast of current events of interest to blacks. The company has a book division and also publishes Jet magazine, the number one black news weekly with a readership of over eight million. It employs more than 2,600 people with sales of over $388 million. Johnson Publishing owns Fashion Fair Cosmetics, the number one makeup and skin care company for women of color around the world and Supreme Beauty products, hair care for men and women. The company is involved in television production and produces the Ebony Fashion Fair, the world's largest traveling fashion show, which has donated over $47 million to charity. The show visits more than 200 cities in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. The Johnson family is active in many charities, including the United Negro College Fund and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. In 1971, Johnson Publishing moved to its new 11-story headquarters on Chicago's fashionable Michigan Avenue, becoming the first black-owned business to be located in the Loop. Johnson presently serves on the boards of directors of Dillard's Inc., and he has served on the boards of First Commercial Bank, Little Rock; Dial Corporation; Zenith Radio Corporation; and Chrysler Corporation.Among the many awards he had received is the NAACP's coveted Spingarn Medal for the highest and most achievements by an African American in 1965. That same year, he was one of 12 Americans who received the Horatio Alger Award. Johnson also has received the USC Journalism Alumni Association's Distinguished Achievement Award in 1969, Black Journalists' Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 and The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones entrepreneurial Excellence Award in 1993. In 1982, he was the first black named to the Forbes' list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. Most recently he was honored with the 2001 Arkansas Business Hall of Fame Award sponsored through the Sam M. Walton College of Business of the University of Arkansas. In 2002, he received the Vanguard Award and The Trumpet Award. Also among Johnson's many accomplishments is service to the United States. In 1957 he accompanied Vice President Richard M. Nixon on a special goodwill tour to nine African countries and again in 1959 he accompanied Vice President Nixon to Russia and Poland. In1961 Johnson was appointed by President John F. Kennedy as Special U.S. Ambassador to the Independence Ceremonies of the Ivory Coast; and in 1963 he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as Special United States Ambassador to the Independence Ceremonies of Kenya. In 1966 he was appointed by President Johnson to the National Selective Service Commission. In 1970 he was appointed by President Nixon as a member of the President's Commission for the Observance of the 25th Anniversary of the United Nations."

A country at 'war', democracy under threat, and what does Ebony give us? Woohoo, celebrities!

So far so very impressive: but actually look at that record. When he wasn't sucking money out of the Black community for those socially progressive causes of entertainment, vanity and profit, he was sucking right up to the government, regardless of ideological stripe. Look at the boards he's been on: banks and car companies and life insurance and the draft. In 1970, when African-Americans were being sent to war in disproportionate numbers. Where was he? On the draft board. But what has he actually done for African-Americans? Sure he's given money to charity, but that's tax-deductible. The man is a shill for the Man, all the while making his own personal fortune. Yes, he has done some good things, 47 million dollars to charity is not peanuts - but where are the Johnson family millions when the Black communiuty is under attack like never before, with no Child Left Behind, the abolition of Pell grants, SS reform, and the elephant in the room, disenfranchisement in Ohio and Florida?

Bob Johnson, founder and CEO of the Black Entertainment Network is not related to Ebony & Jet magazine's Johnson. Nevertheless the same principle holds for both. The BET company has been successful despite three separate scandals involving executives who served as BET's top financial officers. One of them went to prison, and another has accused Johnson of improperly avoiding taxes. After a small group of founding executives became millionaires as a result of BET's growth, Johnson forced most of them to resign. Johnson fired his own wife, Sheila Johnson, from BET. Johnson engaged "in personal relationships with top female executives at his company. His now ex-wife, Sheila Johnson, learned of one affair when she was subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit against the company. Another executive who he had an affair with, Debra Lee, is now the president and chief executive officer of BET. Johnson's own sister, who was one of the company's first employees, sued him and settled for more than $1 million.

According to author Brett Pulley in "The Billion Dollar BET : Robert Johnson and the Inside Story of Black Entertainment Television ", Johnson originally envisioned high-minded programming, but succumbed to the lucre made available by devoting more and more time to music videos supplied for free by the record companies.

This is the weekly news in in the BET universe:

"WEEKLY NEWS QUIZ :Ray Charles won eight Grammy Awards. Michael Jackson was hospitalized. Video game makers were sued. Were you paying attention this week? Take our quiz. "

"It is consistent with Johnson's philosophy of money first and social responsibility . . . whenever. For journalists who have followed BET over the years, some of the disclosures should come as no surprise, even though we might not have known the specifics. For example, a chapter on Ed Gordon's 1996 post-criminal trial interview with O.J. Simpson tells us that BET trumped NBC for the "get" once Johnson promised Simpson and his lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, that BET would run paid advertisements during the show for a $30 video that Simpson had produced giving his version of what happened at the Brentwood murder scene. Only after Gordon repeatedly argued that such a compromise of the line between news and advertising would "impugn my integrity" were the ads placed instead at the beginning and end of the program. Although Johnson did not cooperate with the author, who developed this, his first book, after a 2001 cover story on the entrepreneur, some passages seem to place Johnson in the best possible light. The book's biggest hurdle could be, as Pulley said, that "people have strong passions about BET and about Bob." Thus, anything at variance with those opinions will be greeted skeptically. For example, a favorable passage about BET's support of the 1995 Million Man March says that BET covered the event. That's true if cutting in from time to time among the day's routine showing of music videos is considered coverage. If viewers wanted to see the event without interruption, they had to -- and did -- tune elsewhere. And on Gordon, Pulley states, "Before the O.J. interview, Gordon's fundamental competency as a journalist had been questioned. Afterward, the only question that the major networks were asking was, 'Why didn't we hire this guy a long time ago?'" Yet once Gordon left BET for NBC, he didn't last long, a situation the book doesn't explore. For whatever reason, he has found success only at BET. By Forbes magazine's calculations, Johnson was America's first black billionaire, and for some, that is cause for celebration. Yet it is telling that of the four blurbs on the back of the book jacket, three are from journalists praising the book. It is only the blurb from the non-journalist -- NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas -- that praises Johnson himself. To Thomas, Johnson is "one of the most inspiring men of our time."

It's the same old story - I've got mine, fuck you. The Johnsons, Condi, Colin Powell, Star Jones and hundreds of others, they think that if they make enough money, suck up to power, throw some opiate to the masses, that that will protect them from the racism endemic in US society. I mind most of all that they are teaching this trash to our children through the privileged positions that they hold, either in the media or as media-owners and regulators. I find them loathsome and the very last role models for our children.



Occasional ceph Blogging No.7: A Boy and his Squid

How cute is this?

This is what I like to see, introducing our young to their future cephalopod overlords at an early age. Adorable child, adorable cephknuffel.

All together now, say "awwwwwwwwwwwww."



Fixed, fingers crossed.

Ok, so I changed the template, because for some weird reason the previous one simply refused to layout properly in IE. I guess it's not called Internet Exploder for nuthin'. So for all those IE users who've clicked the 'homepage' button in Haloscan, at least now there's something to see. You may not like it, but at least you can see it. Or at least I can. If you still can't, what can I say - except, get a real browser, you loser.

Not that I'm crazy about about this template, as it is somewhat lacking in pizazz - still, until I have sufficient clue to code it myself,( or as is more likely, use my fabled powers of persuasion, aka cooking, to get Martin to do it for me) it'll just have to be dull.



Getchore WH Press Pass Here!

Tired of mandates? Wanna be a top-notch Rove-ing reporter? Wanna get close to the Preznit?

Well, now you can, thanks to those great patriots at whitehouse.org. The WH Press Pool pass gets you close to some of the most powerful closet queens in the Administration.

Think what it could do for your journalistic career, not to mention the fees you could charge for those strictly military wrestling in peanut oil lessons! (Even more when barebacked)

WH.org Press pass holders have gone to write for such shining beacons of journalistic integrity as Talon News, National Review Online, Free Republic, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and Eberle Weekly.

Get yours today. It's free, and you can use any name you like.

(Copyright Fleischer-McLennan Enterprises Inc, Offer not valid in Blue states)



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