Army Times on “combat operations” in Nola

Via BoingBoing and Rigorous Intuition:

From the September 2 article titled “Troops begin combat operations in New Orleans”:

NEW ORLEANS – Combat operations are underway on the streets “to take this city back” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. “We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”

Jones said the military first needs to establish security throughout the city. Military and police officials have said there are several large areas of the city are in a full state of anarchy. Dozens of military trucks and up-armored Humvees left the staging area just after 11 a.m. Friday, while hundreds more troops arrived at the same staging area in the city via Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters.

“We’re here to do whatever they need us to do,” Sgt. 1st Class Ron Dixon, of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 1345th Transportation Company. “We packed to stay as long as it takes.”

While some fight the insurgency in the city, other carry on with rescue and evacuation operations. Helicopters are still pulling hundreds of stranded people from rooftops of flooded homes.

Un. Fucking. Believable. Or on second thought, not really that unbelievable in George Bush’s America. Welcome to the Baghdadization of America.

Liberal Media bias spreads to coffeecups

Do these people have nothing better to do? The Uptight Busybodies of America is up in arms because Starbucks has a quote from Armistead Maupin on some of its coffeecups as part of its “The Way I See It” campaign. The quote in its entirety is:

My only regret about being gay is that he repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.

Starbucks’s response in the article is perfectly reasonable — “Embracing diversity and treating people with dignity is one of the guiding principles of our corporation” — but how long before the American Taliban bullies other organization into self-censorship when it comes to anything related to gay culture?

Martial Law: It ain’t just tanks in the streets!

Via Digby, a must-read from TNR. My friends, we are all idiots. The putsch is over and the junta is polishing its boots with the Constitution:

The Bush administration has adopted this radical approach because it is defending the idea that the Constitution empowers the president to conduct war exclusively on his terms. A series of memos written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 effectively maintained that any law restricting the president’s commander-in-chief authority is presumptively unconstitutional. (When GOP Senator Lindsey Graham recently quoted to Pentagon lawyer Daniel Dell’Orto the inconvenient section of Article I, Section 8, granting Congress the authority to “make rules concerning captures on land and water,” he farcically replied, “I’d have to take a look at that particular constitutional provision.”) Last month, when some GOP senators tried to bar “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” of detainees in an amendment to the 2006 defense bill, the White House sent them a letter threatening to veto any attempt to “restrict the President’s authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice,” and Vice President Dick Cheney warned senators against usurping executive power. For good measure, the White House instructed the Senate leadership to pull the entire half-trillion-dollar bill from the floor, lest the offending language within it pass.

[snip]

That’s not all. Before a Senate panel last month, Dell’Orto argued that Congress shouldn’t create a statutory definition of the term “enemy combatant,” since the administration needs “flexibility in the terminology in order to … address the changing circumstances of the type of conflicts in which we are engaged and will be engaged.” The very next week, before an appellate court panel, Solicitor General Paul Clement, arguing for the continued detention without charge of American citizen and suspected Al Qaeda terrorist José Padilla, explained what the administration has in mind for its “flexible” definition. Federal appellate Judge J. Michael Luttig, a Bush appointee, noted that, since Padilla was arrested not on an Afghan battlefield but at a Chicago airport, the administration’s discretion to detain an American citizen ought to be fettered, “unless you’re prepared to boldly say the United States is a battlefield in the war on terror.” Clement immediately replied, “I can say that, and I can say it boldly.” In essence, the administration is claiming authority to detain anyone, captured anywhere, based not on any criteria enacted by law but rather at the discretion of policy, and to hold that individual indefinitely.

That position–that the war on terrorism requires executive latitude at odds with hundreds of years of law–has animated every single step of the administration’s approach to the war. It’s why Bush has kept nato allies at arm’s length while simultaneously trumpeting their absolute necessity to the defeat of Al Qaeda. It’s why he didn’t just oppose the creation of an independent 9/11 Commission to investigate the history of counterterrorism policy, he also argued it would be an unacceptable burden on his prosecution of the war. And it’s why he’s blasted any move by the courts to exercise oversight of the war as a dangerous judicial overreach: When a district court judge last year challenged the constitutionality of the administration’s military commissions for the trial of enemy combatants, the Justice Department “vigorously disagree[d],” as a spokesman put it, and contested the ruling until the commissions were reinstated on appeal last month. For the administration, its expansion of executive power is synonymous with victory in the war–regardless of the real-world costs to the war effort.

In this case, the War in Iraq and the War on Terror are both tremendous successes–they have allowed Bush to create an Imperial Presidency beyond the wildest dreams of Nixon. His lawyers can laugh at Republican Senators when they cite the Constitution. All he needs now is another attack on the U.S. to consolidate the kind of power we would recognize as tanks-in-the-street martial law. Think I’m exaggerating?

Gen. Tommy Franks said in an interview with the lifestyle magazine Cigar Aficionado that if another terrorist attack occurs in the United States “the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government” The stunning revelation is the headline story on the right-wing news site NewsMax for Friday. Franks said that another terrorism attack will result in “… the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years…” He indicated that if another terrorism attack occurs Bush will likely declare martial law and the Constitution will apparently be “discarded”.

Boing Boing’s $1 Million Intelligent Design challenge

This is the way to respond to ID wackos– not with “on the one hand, on the other hand” credulity. When offered $250,000 for empirical evidence of evolution, the Boingers responded thus:

“We are willing to pay any individual $250,000 if they can produce empirical evidence which proves that Jesus is not the son of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” They were quickly able to up that number to a cool million thanks to donations from other rich-but-not-really-worried geeks.

Again, though I’m a Christian, I’m sick and tired of these idiots. Faith is faith, and reason is reason. Don’t cross the streams!

Boing Boing’s $1 Million Intelligent Design challenge

This is the way to respond to ID wackos– not with “on the one hand, on the other hand” credulity. When offered $250,000 for empirical evidence of evolution, the Boingers responded thus:

“We are willing to pay any individual $250,000 if they can produce empirical evidence which proves that Jesus is not the son of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” They were quickly able to up that number to a cool million thanks to donations from other rich-but-not-really-worried geeks.

Again, though I’m a Christian, I’m sick and tired of these idiots. Faith is faith, and reason is reason. Don’t cross the streams!

It’s The Paranoid Style, Stupid

Let me make a blanket statement: If you have never read Richard Hofstadter’s classic The Paranoid Style in American Politics, you are probably hopelessly, and needlessly, confused by much of what passes as political thought on the right. We have been here before, in the land of the Know-Nothing Party and the John Birch Society, but in those days the paranoiacs lacked their own think tanks and cable news channels. [The warblogs are, in this view, little more than digital editions of the kinds of pamphlets that used to be found only at gun shows and camp meetings.]

More importantly, this lack of understanding contributes to an abiding strategic error on the left. Our liberal habit of rational argumentation based on the day’s freshest facts and biggest words pales in the face of appeals–overt or coded– to the evergreen catalog of paranoid tropes that are the ghost in the machine of American democracy. Lakoff, whom I respect in many ways, ought to visit Hofstadter… the right’s frames are merely old American nightmares dressed in the fashions of the day [or at least the Wal-Mart fashions of the day and yes, I know that was elitist].

I relied on TPSIAP to decode and debunk Chrichton’s Jap-baiting schlockterpiece Rising Sun for a college seminar named for Hofstadter’s essay. But however closely one studied it in college, each new exposure feels like a needed slap upside the head:

American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. . . . [T]he idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant. Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good. But nothing really prevents a sound program or demand from being advocated in the paranoid style. Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.

Well, duh. Style, people– fight the style and the substance can pretty well speak for itself. The great gas-filled blimps of liberal policy are no match for the glittering daggers of the paranoid style–in fact they attract suspicion, their complexity looking like conspiracy. What’s more, harnessing the Paranoid Style has been such a winner for the GOP because their policies have led to deep economic desperation among so many–a situation that provides the perfect soil for… more paranoia. It’s not a noise machine we fight on the right, but a paranoia farm. And we have to think about the candidates in this light too… John Kerry, bless his heart, was a near-perfect embodiment of the American Paranoiac’s nightmare.

Anyway, this walk down political theory lane is brought to you by the wonderful Armando at DailyKos, who has a great post that serves as an excellent primer on the Paranoid Style as defined by Hofstadter, with a brilliant but unexpected assist via his reading of Umberto Eco. A fascinating read. As someone who dabbles in conspiracy theory, I will remind everyone that “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not all out to get you.” The danger, though, is not so much in personal paranoia as in the relentless stoking of a range of the most florid of those paranoias as practiced by the GOP over two generations.

Since Nixon adopted the Southern Strategy, the GOP has run–and won–on fear and paranoia. W isn’t a war president–he’s a fear president. It is literally all he has to offer because “the base” isn’t of any use to them unless it is mortally afraid of The Terrorists, The Gays, The Mexicans, The Sex, The Women, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Rove is no genius– he just knows the melody that the Paranoid Chorus is trained to sing to. It is a horrible and ancient music, but effective and infinite in its variations.

[It should be interesting, to soi-disant Christians at least, that the first recorded words of the Risen Christ, and the shortest affirmative commandment in the Scripture, were “Be not afraid.” There should not be room in a Christian politics for so much fear, but the garden has long been cleared to make room for the weeds.]

So how do you fight paranoia? If the answer were easy we would not be fighting it now. But I suspect that the first step is listening carefully to the people from whom a vote for the GOP is a vote against their economic interests. Whatever they are saying holds the key, if we can only decode it. That does not, as Armando points out, mean rushing to the right–just as we can’t out-gun or out-God them, we can’t out-scare them.

It is interesting to reflect on the meme that got Clinton elected– he was “the Man from Hope.” Clinton could speak of hope–and of prayer and uplifting faith–honestly and sincerely, in a way that neither excluded nor divided. It is American Hope that has always overcome American Paranoia–for example, hope in American progress and innovation that helped derail the Know-Nothings and the Birchers. As 2006 and 2008 roll toward us, I’m listening for the voice of hope that can reach those locked in the paranoid cycle of fear and rage. Because if we can’t free them, we will all be consigned to live out their darkest dreams.

Ah, the martyrs

I’m a Christian. As such, I’ve read the Bible. I seem to remember the parts where Christians were persecuted as having lions. And whippings. And murders. Whenever I read things like this, I feel like the true martyrs of my faith are being insulted. And I wonder where I can get me some lions–because last time I checked, it’s us fags who are getting beaten and murdered, not the Christians.

History warns us that when large religious groups start imagining themselves to be oppressed by a pernicious and cunning minority, bad things can happen. So it was with a growing sourness in my stomach that I watched the luminaries of the Christian right take the stage at a Tennessee “megachurch” Sunday evening for “Justice Sunday II.”

The ostensible purpose of the gathering (which I watched via webcast) was to muster support for the Bush administration’s judicial appointees — especially but not exclusively Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. But as speaker after speaker hammered on the theme of oppression of Christians by a shadowy liberal establishment, it became clear that, like many of the sermons, books, and articles written by leaders of the Christian right, the real purpose of “Justice Sunday II” was to reinforce a sense of victimhood among the broadest possible swath of American Christians.

Read the whole piece, cue the ominous music.

Bush: Waging war on terror, one child rape at a time

And no, that’s not hyperbole.

The new round of Abu Ghraib photos that the badministration is refusing, in contempt of Federal court order, to release, apparently includes evidence of rape and child sodomy. [When Rumsfeld calls something “sadistic,” it has to be bad.] But apparently Bush wants more of the same. So much so that he is threatening to veto the $422 billion Defense appropriations bill if it includes any restrictions on prisoner treatment or investigation of already reported abuses. And guess which crazy liberals in Congress are leading the charge? Senators McCain and Graham. McCain, as Rove was quick to smear him in 2000, is all soft on POWs since he was one himself. But when a Republican Senator from South Carolina has to stand up to speak for human rights and the rule of law, you know that shit is officially fucked up.

As Hunter at Daily Kos puts it:

I think it’s time to invent some new swearing, because there isn’t anything currently in the language that fully encompasses the White House’s unapologetic attempts to ensure the Bush administration’s own crafted and approved “interrogation” policies be allowed to continue unhindered. Yes, according to the Bush administration, any attempts by Republican senators to legislate against, say, the sodomizing of detained children are unduly infringing on the president’s fight against terrorists.

Had the Christian Right any sense of decency left–or even a shared brain cell capable of perceiving irony–they would be speaking up on this. I do seem to recall some squeamishness about sodomy in their past activism. Could we perhaps get Dobson to clarify his position on child rape? By his silence one is forced to assume he only cares about pedophilia when it’s perpetrated by Catholic Priests of NAMBLA. He probably has a snippet of scripture that justifies it when undertaken by the CIA, or when the children in question are Muslim.

Because I read the news and have a conscience, I can no longer claim to be proud of my country. Until this gang of thieves and criminals are driven out of power, no more national anthems or pledges of allegiance for me. “Regime change begins at home,” as the bumper sticker proclaims, and until we manage to hold these people accountable we are all complicit.

I’m ready to march, ready to go to the barricades, and damn near ready to riot if that’s what it takes. This administration’s arrogance and stupidity has left it critically weakened. If we as Democrats can’t finish the job, we don’t deserve the name. If we can’t ride Rove out of Washington on a rail, we don’t deserve our country back. And if we can’t keep women children from being raped in our prisons around the world, we don’t deserve safety from the bombs thrown by their fathers and brothers. If we have truly stooped to the tactics of the terrorists, we deserve the Armageddon Bush’s base so desperately wants to provoke.

Have you heard the one about the gay teen concentration camp?

In Tenessee, they don’t bother to beat the shit out of gay teens and leave them for dead on fences.

No, at the hideously named Love In Action camp they just outsource the killing to the gay teens themselves. Quoth the head of the “conversion camp”:

“I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle. In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection; whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery.”

Think about that every time you hear Bush talk about the Culture of Life. The fundagelical puppetmasters who got him elected wave around their pretty talking points, but they have raised up in this land of Cult of Death around those they scapegoat for power and profit. When will we tear it down?

I wish evil on few people. But the people who say things like that, and the self-righteous fucks who turn their children over to such idiots deserve the very worst this world has to offer. This world and the next one, come to think of it.

Seriously, don’t read that last link unless you want to be sitting at your desk at work sobbing with rage. Though “Zack’s” case has become a cause celebre, nothing could ever heal what has been done to him. And despite an investigation, the state of Tennessee isn’t taking any action to regulate this or other gay-teen gulags.

Update: The complete rules of the LIA(r) program are here, and they are seriously so fucked up that it’s a wonder that every single “client” doesn’t kill themselves. If ever there were a doubt that the “ex-gay movement” is a cult, this should settle the argument. LIA exhibits the unintentional hilarity shared by all cults:

6. No television viewing, going to movies, or reading/watching/listening to secular media of any kind, anywhere within the clients and the parent’s/guardian’s control. This includes listening to classical or instrumental music that is not expressly Christian (Beethoven, Bach, etc. are not considered Christian). The only exception to the media policy is the weekly movie.

Oh, and the camp is run by “ex-gays” who I’m guessing are the most twisted individuals this side of a pretzel factory. Running a camp like this, where the “clients” aren’t allowed to talk to anyone but their family–and then never about the program–must be a great way to secretly indulge their sadistic pedophiliac urges. Running one of these camps must be even better than being a Roman Catholic priest!