Guantanamo "Detainees" Speak - Update

Here's an amazing story of what's being done in our name in these camps.

The Supreme Court has determined that Guantanamo detainees must be allowed to face their accusers. Now a question may get answered: "Is Guantanamo a camp full of terrorists, or a camp full of mistakes?" This question is asked in an excellent "This American Life" radio episode (clicking the photo below will play it). The answer doesn't look good for anyone.

This radio segment is something that may reach even the most diehard NASCAR-watching, Ann Coulter-smitten, megachurch-drugged Southern Republican. It's the story of a government unhinged, doing great damage to the world and to America's reputation.

Our tax dollars!

Most (but clearly not all) "detainees" were picked up for bounty money paid to warlords or disgruntled neighbors, not "swept up from the battlefield" (another of the many Dick Cheney lies we've been subjected to), and then not allowed to challenge their detainment.

This right to challenge (habeas corpus) is a very old (from the Magna Carta, signed in 1215A.D.) and extremely basic right in international law. It is included in the Geneva Conventions, which all civilized countries have long (beginning 1863) signed on to. But it had been rejected by the Bush Administration, one of many regressive, un-American directives of the past 6 years . The blind arrogance of Alberto Gonzalez and the Bush circle in disallowing this right and perpetuating the shame of the Guantanamo prison camp has hurt America and will haunt us for a generation or more on the battlefield and at home.

In this radio show, two former prisoners interviewed in the third segment talk about their experience and forgive their captors at Guantanamo. It's the best part of this award-winning three-part episode (if you don't have an hour to listen, you can skip directly to 41:35 to hear part 3, which runs 20 minutes). They are two good men caught up in a nightmare, and I wonder if I could ever be so magnanimous and forgiving.
Their perspectives and generosity are moving and amazing to me. (transcript and episode description)

I feel ashamed (as an American) of being associated with George Bush and his crowd--his bad decisions, his sophomoric black-and-white reasoning. I'm sad that our country and culture are being run into the ground by such inept warmongers, and frustrated that so many Americans have been so stubbornly and willfully boneheaded and oblivious for so long, despite all the available evidence. With their votes and their voices they have allowed our country to backslide into darker, more regressive times, and so have enabled narrow-minded, fake-patriotic war profiteers and liars (such as Dick Cheney) over the past six years.

It's so easy to follow leaders who wave the flag and preach fear, and that is the sad reality of so many Americans who crave a simple, uncomplicated answer to 9-11. The unrealistic answer the neocons have offered have deadly long-term effects.

Take this report of incompetence and arrogance on the part of people working for and in the name of our country. I wonder how many young Muslims around the world become outraged by this kind of story who wouldn't otherwise hate the U.S. for these kinds of tactics in the "War on Terror" to protect "the Homeland"?

This report describes one small incident out of thousands that are eroding the spirit of America and its goodwill around the world, as reflected by many polls and surveys over the past two years. Fair-minded people all over the world have soured on America after reading accounts and seeing images of the American government's use of self-righteous, unnecessary overwhelming force. It's not irresponsible to publish these reports and pictures of U.S. abuse and deceit, as Dick Cheney claims. It is un-American not to.

The point of bringing our leaders mistakes to light is not that "we're as bad as the terrorists"
(as pseudo-patriots on the Right want to portray dissent). People all over the world almost universally agree that we're nowhere as bad as these deluded, medieval religious fanatics in the Arab world and Iran. The point (which is so incredibly difficult for many American conservatives to grasp) is that when we give in to those among us who are motivated by vengeance instead of justice, who are willing to let our standards slip, and who condone torture and ignore basic human rights--then we begin to become the thing we're fighting against.

As Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said recently "It‘s not whether they deserve it or not. It‘s how we conduct ourselves. It has to do where if we say that our opponent can cause us not to follow the rules anymore, then we‘ve lost who we are. We‘re the good guys. We‘re the guys who follow the rule and the people we fight are the bad guys and we show that every day when we follow the rules, regardless of what they do. It‘s what sets us apart. It‘s what makes us great and in my mind, it‘s what makes us undefeatable, ultimately".

Update: Lt. Swift was recently denied promotion, which, in effect, forced him out of the JAG Corps and the Navy. I hope that after the worst president we've ever had leaves office, the next president will offer Lt. Swift his job back. We need truth-tellers like him to protect the most important thing we have: the rule of law.

Mom and Dubya

Mom lets her fingers do the talking.

Recently the Senate barely rejected a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution, supported by Mr. Bush, which would have criminalized flag-burning, or "flag-desecration".

Burning our flag is an offensive and inflammatory (sorry) thing to do, but--changing the Constitution? What is going on here, WTF? The ideas that make us a great nation don't include prison time for burning a symbol--but they do include this one: "Freedom of speech is not for the thought you love but for the thought you hate the most."

This ought to be obvious to anyone older than, say, 16. But no, it's not for the Stupid Lobby. You know, the one Karl Rove is riling up now that it's time for Midterm Elections. And so we have the periodic calls for imprisonment of idiots who burn flags, defending marriage against the gay terrorists, etc. It's all about fear, isn't it.

Like the push to amend the Constitution to "protect" marriage, this "flag protection" ploy is a sign of the backwards-looking times we're in. As a Newsweek columnist put it, "For more than 200 years, we’ve occasionally used the amendment process to expand rights. This would be the first time we would enshrine their restriction."

Here's the thing about this outrage about flag-burning: it's a poor substitute for outrage about young soldiers getting their arms, legs, and heads blown off. War is justifiable only when all other means are exhausted. Demanding that is real patriotism, not demanding an end to the burning of cloth with stripes and stars.

My Mom freely expresses her revulsion with scoundrels who wrap themselves in the flag. She agrees with Bill Hicks, who said "The soldiers didn't die for the flag. They died for what the flag stood for, which was the freedom to burn the f*cking flag. Case f*cking closed."

Why "Blog"? (with Illustrations)


Why the hell waste your life in the "Blogosphere", writing silly rants and comments on other blogs? It's Summertime, dammit.

Well, I can only speak for myself. Ah, feck that, this is true for you too:

There's no point debating anything online. You might as well hurl shoes in the air to knock clouds from the sky. The internet's perfect for all manner of things, but productive discussion ain't one of them. It provides scant room for debate and infinite opportunities for fruitless point-scoring: the heady combination of perceived anonymity, gestated responses, random heckling and a notional "live audience" quickly conspire to create a "perfect storm" of perpetual bickering.


Stumble in, take umbrage with someone, trade a few blows, and within about two or three exchanges, the subject itself goes out the window. Suddenly you're simply arguing about arguing. Eventually, one side gets bored, comes to its senses, or dies, and the row fizzles out: just another needless belch in the swirling online guffstorm.

Well, in case you were beginning to think I may actually have something to say, let me just tell you that this bit is from a newspaper, and it gets better:

But not for long, because online quarrelling is also addictive, in precisely the same way Tetris is addictive. It appeals to the "lab rat" part of your brain; the annoying, irrepressible part that adores repetitive pointlessness and would gleefully make you pop bubblewrap till Doomsday if it ever got its way. An unfortunate few, hooked on the futile thrill of online debate, devote their lives to its cause. They roam the internet, actively seeking out viewpoints they disagree with, or squat on messageboards, whining, needling, sneering, over-analysing each new proclamation - joylessly fiddling, like unhappy gorillas doomed to pick lice from one another's fur for all eternity.

So you see, it's a completely useless and derivative activity that I am doing that you now reading. Isn't personal blogging simply a combination of talking points, venting, magical thinking, and the very occasional actual crystal-clear insight. Mostly it's full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. This is the best of times for self-referential, random-abstract chicken-chasers like me.

Personal blogs are occasionally insightful, but mostly they're recreation, and let's face it, mental masturbation.

In the giant echo-chamber that is the World of Blogging, everyday is Groundhog Day. People slinging the same ole shit takes up most of this void.

So why have I spent hours learning about blogging, obsessively perfecting the placement images and tags, contructing snarky put-downs in far corners of the web? The whole technical side eats up the hours for a complete idiot such as myself even now when sites like Google's Blogger can get you started in about a minute.

There are target="_blank"35 million blogs out there. Why do I need one? The "answer" is that this blog must be filling a need for me in expressing myself, and an old post on George Orwell's reasons for writing summed it up without me ever having to lift a pen, er, tap a key. Note the reach for gravitas. Note also the post's referral to another post, which refers to yet another, which quotes George's undying words:

...I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

1. Sheer egoism.
Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen – in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all – and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm.
Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

3. Historical impulse.
Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

4. Political purpose.
Using the word 'political' in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples' idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate from person to person and from time to time... full version

I'm surprising myself at the font of anger that has sprung out of me in writing anonymously online. Right now I feel like venting about my belief that my culture is taking a nosedive, but this subject may change. No one's reading, or commenting, but I don't (lie) give a shit.

I feel very strongly about what I write. I'm sad about what the right wing has done to America. I have problems with the left as well. But something I have no illusion about is that my "blog" is anything more than just a drop in the ocean. It's just practice, and fun. It's worth doing, but this is a playground. I'm a wannabe writer, journalist, or better yet: Op-Ed Columnist for the Washington Times--er, no, I mean the NY Times. Yeah, that's it--the power to sway people for the good would be swell. Nicholas Kristof has got the best job in the world.

Mostly, despite everything I've said, doing this thing simply fills a need, for now. There are few things more ephemeral that a blog entry. Then again, there will likely be some trace of this post in twenty years. You can embarass yourself etermally--just another reason to blog.

Classic Apologies: Tobacco, Bhopal, and Iraq


Bush is part of a fine tradition of complete acceptance of responsibility.

1905 video: San Fran streetcar ride

Market Street to the Ferry Building

One year later, April 18

Growing up in San Francisco, I took the streetcar down Market Street hundreds of times. I loved the hustle and bustle, the non-stop parade of worker bees, shoppers, tourists, loiterers, and always vehicles zipping in and out of traffic, enlessly rushing around in a hurry.

To see such a long stretch of uniterrupted footage of everyday life from a century ago in a place I know so well is a strange pleasure. The camera moves...(click "read more") steadily through a busy downtown of solid buildings, scrambling pedestrians, horse carriages, bicycles and autos towards the tower of the Ferry Building on the Bay.

Slowly rolling through the strangely familiar territory of my childhood gives me the chills. It's nostalgic in an odd way (since I was born many decades later). All are dead, the buildings gone the next year in the quake and fire of '06, and the vehicles and patterns of movement of the people only a distant echo.

That Ferry Building was the busiest passenger terminal on the West Coast, later it was obscured by freeways until the '89 quake, and now it houses precious upscale boutique eateries and a farmers market. Market Street and the Ferry Building survive, and vintage streetcars still travel this and other routes, thanks to city-booster types. San Francisco is lucky, and I was lucky to grow up there.

The New Ozymandias

I renamed my blog this afternoon. The title had had a common expletive which described how I'm feeling about how my country is being run and what direction it is headed. I knew that title was temporary, but it fit, and felt good.
With feedback, I decided to go with some degree of subtlety. I cleaned up my posts considerably, and pondered for a long while on a name that would fit the tone and content. Of course: Ozymandias!
Then I searched technorati for my new name, curious how many others had come up with this as a title, and look what I found: not a blog title, but a photo essay on Ozymandias today!

Loathing the Smirker

When Clinton lied, just how many died?

Bush. He's made it unsafe to be an American all around the world. He's a deserter who cunningly won against a guy who, although a bore, earned Purple Hearts getting shot on the Mekong River. He's dumb as a rock, yet entered and slid though Yale, and then Harvard's business school, and then got sweetheart financing for his business failures. He was born on third base and thought he'd hit a home run. He's a corporate tool who wears his "Christianity" on his sleeve and has f*cked up our country in every possible way. He had the world's sympathy after 9/11 but has sqandered that goodwill towards America and made himself, and America, more hated than ever. And he was elected, sort of, showing how f*cking stupid 50% of my country is, well--really it was mostly the Bible Belt that was brain-dead.

He lied, and lied, and continues to lie, so that there are now civilians dying and being maimed in Iraq at a rate far exceeding the rate during Saddam's hellish regime. It will be a great day when we throw him from the train

and replace them with...yikes. It looks like...McCain? Well, you tell me if we're going to make a comeback with this guy.

My country has been hijacked by a bunch of selfish and war-obsessed incompetents who tell the world they are "compassionate". All we've got is lies and fake patriotism from these right-wing pseudo-Christian nutters who are in love with wealth and power. They are not the best America has to offer. I'm tired of it, and I hope we throw the bums out in '08.

H e r o

I gave this book as a present on my girlfriend's birthday a couple of years back. We hope to participate in some small measure the general type of work that this doc has devoted himself to. Just think how much good simply distributing health care information does, such as the Blue Trunk Libraries. That's the sort of thing I am aiming to do. My partner has more direct skills.

"The only real nation is Humanity"
- Paul Farmer

This doc is walking the walk, aiding real people with intelligence and effectiveness, and I can forgive him any personal quirks for all the health and happiness he has brought to areas in Haiti, Peru, Russia, and other desperately poor nations. He and his co-workers are operating at the intersection of where their talents and passion meet the world's misery, showing how to cut through the bull and let people organize for their health care.

Health care workers and teachers--these people are the real heroes...(click "read more") of our time, particularly when they work with those who need help most.

They are heroes for me. Unlike the self-seeking, bullshitting Tom DeLay's of the world who trumpet their "Christianity" while sowing division and fear and their selfish “America First” agenda, people like Paul Farmer are improving lives. Unlike the over-glorified Tiger Woods' and Tom Cruise's of the world--typical celebs who make millions and fan their egos while people starve, he's working in people's lives to eliminate simple infectious diseases that take literally pennies to prevent. And unlike the adventurers who climb Everest to test their physical limits and write books and talk about their courage and endurance ad nauseum, people who work in health care, particularly in developing countries, are strong and brave everyday.

They do the often mundane work of being compassionate with all comers, no matter what they look like.

I've got nothing against wealth, but I'm very against the unbalanced wealth that our society unthinkingly condones. And the sad thing is that speaking against disparities in wealth in our society or in the world is considered suspect, even un-American. The right wing and corporate elements over-value comfort and making bucks while children waste away from dysentery and hunger.

Our country has taken a nosedive the past six years under the I find it hard to be optimistic that we will make a turnaround in the next generation before the sh*t hits the fan. Hey, but Iraq will be secure against those Islamo-facists! And at least we're winning the war on the environment!

¡Ya está, es la primavera!

It's Spring! And one can't rail against the forces of Stupidity all the time. As that old crank Ed said:

Let us save at least part of our lives for enjoyment of this wonderful world which still exists. Leave your dens, abandon your cars, and walk out into the mountains, the deserts, the forests, the seashores. Those treasures still belong to all of us. Enjoy them to the full, stretch your legs, enliven your hearts -- and we will outlive the greedy swine who want to destroy it all in the name of what they call growth.

Secular humanist takes apart fundamentalists

This lady's got pelotas, telling it like it is to the frickheads (click image). A fundamentalist is a fundamentalist anywhere. These guys looks like idiots in contrast to her passionate eloquence, but we have our own hate-spewing jihadists, too, and they're just as moronic, but we're used to them and tolerate them, and our politicians pander to them, with or without vomit in the back of their throats.

mid-winter monochromatic mind

Will the gods ever give us the Spring?
With all the grey it's easy to forget that the sun will be warm on my skin someday soon. I hope.

Linda tramping upriver

It is a wonderful thing have a wilderness area as a backyard. In the winter when the high country is locked in snow, you can still hike the lowland valleys. Then you have a better chance of seeing elk and deer as they also are kept out of their mountain stomping grounds.