Brett Favre just the last bailout to fail New York City. Next star in East? Caroline Kennedy.

Well, just another bailout that didn’t work. Brett Favre was supposed to save the New York Jets, which would have made the city’s sports fans happy, though not as happy as those Wall Streeters in their stadium skyboxes.

But in the middle of a boom — the Jets were 8-3 and seemed a cinch for the NFL playoffs — Favre imploded and the team collapsed.

Hubris pays off. And then it doesn’t.

Take it from me, America, you know you’re headed for a major depression when even the usual distractions stop working.

But as the late Albert Ellis used to say to us neurotics hurtling toward a great depression: Separate your irrational thoughts from your rational ones. It’s not your fault, America, that the games that took your mind off real-world or self-induced worries no longer keep you from sliding into full-blown anhedonia.

Play the following Ellis tape, instead of the one currently in your brain:

As the blunt Ellis would have pointed out, “Fuck what other people think! Get rational about it! Get over it! Stop your whining! Work at it!” (And yes, he used such language, even at age 90, in his memorable Friday night cheapo public sessions on the Upper East Side.)

Speaking of depression and games: Greed — not the usual greed but the excessive type — did in the Jets the way excessive greed did in Wall Street. The Jets suddenly collapsed and their already-shaky hopes for the playoffs dissolved.

Both NYC teams in the NFL playoffs? No joy.

Who’s the next candidate to save the city? Caroline Kennedy. Big news this weekend, at least according to the Daily News, which snagged an interview with the princess. Ooooh, a scoop.

The headline? “Caroline Kennedy tells Daily News: I wouldn’t be beholden to anybody.”

True, she wouldn’t be beholden to her strong supporter Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The story?:

“I’m really coming into this as somebody who isn’t, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, stands for the values of, you know, the Democratic Party,” Kennedy told the Daily News Saturday during a wide-ranging interview.

True, she’s not part of the system. In fact, she’s a dilettante who would be getting a high office solely because of her name.

Further proof that Caroline Kennedy is telling the truth when she says she “isn’t, you know, part of the system”: As the Daily News reported December 19, she doesn’t even vote:

Caroline Kennedy wants to be the next senator from New York, but her voting record is already spotty, the Daily News has found.

City Board of Elections records show Kennedy has failed to vote in many elections since she registered in the city in 1988 – including votes for the Senate seat she hopes to fill and numerous Democratic faceoffs for mayor.

“It doesn’t speak to a deep-felt commitment to the electoral process,” Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio said when told of Kennedy’s ballot breakdowns.

JFK’s legacy? Caroline is a legacy, the way a rich, disinterested playboy like George W. Bush got into Yale not on his own merits but because his politician daddy, George H.W. Bush, went to Yale and Junior was what the school considered a “legacy.”

And people like the Bushes are opposed to affirmative action? What do think the collegiate system of “legacies” is? It’s affirmative action for rich white people.

Here’s a real legacy: After thousands of years of fighting over land, the death dance between Arabs and Jews has come to what media outlets are calling the “bloodiest hit” by Israel in 60 years: “HELL FIRE RAINS ON GAZA.”

At least you’re just fighting for your job, not your survival. You think things are bad? Think about those little girls in Kurdistan who are being routinely circumcised.

That’s an old story in much of the world. More bad news that’s more immediate …


The Age (Australia): ‘Israel: We will not stop’ [VIDEO]

Bloomberg: ‘Virginity Pledges Fail to Trump Teen Lust in Look at Older Data’

Register (U.K.): ‘Walmart’s Jesus Phone no better, no worse: Save two bucks!’

N.Y. Post: ‘Dump ’em: Losers Mangini, Favre must go’

The Age (Australia): ‘More children reported dead in latest Gaza strikes’

Register (U.K.): ‘Crash survivor Twitters from burning plane (false): Geek micro-blogged from safety’

N.Y. Daily News: ’15-year-old girl arrested in brutal Bronx stabbing’


N.Y. Times: ‘Suicide Bombs Kill 20 in Afghanistan’

ABC: ‘Many Questions Left in Bush Scandals’

Register (U.K.): ‘Giant US air travel data suck fails own privacy tests, but gets cleared anyway’

Reuters: ‘SCENARIOS: Assessing risks of India, Pakistan confrontation’

Washington Post: ‘Blagojevich on the Way Out, Says Illinois’ No. 2′

Wall Street Journal: ‘Latin American Investors Quiet on Madoff Losses’

Wealthy investors in Latin America appear to be among big losers in the Ponzi scheme allegedly orchestrated by Bernard Madoff.

N.Y. Times: ‘Veterans of ’90s Bailout Hope for Profits in New One’

Register (U.K.): ‘101 uses for a former merchant banker’

N.Y. Times: ‘Murders by Black Teenagers Rise, Bucking a Trend’

Wall Street Journal: ‘The Weekend That
Wall Street Died’

The financial crisis that began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers marked sharp change by Wall Street bosses from banding together to every man for himself.

N.Y. Times: ‘Romance and Recovery in Quake-Devastated Area’

Washington Post: ‘An Experiment in Mastering Risk’

System created to lock in profits and operate in regulation gaps eventually reduces AIG to ruins.



A Thousand and One Arabian Nightmares

Saudi King Abdullah’s message of peace in NYC leaves his subjects back home in pieces.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia played New York City for a sucker yesterday with his homily about peace and mercy.

Even in a city that thrives on chutzpah, Abdullah’s lovefest publicity stunt has no equal.

The king was so polite right from the start of his speech yesterday at the U.N. Peace Through Dialogue meeting:

“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, Your Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies, His Excellency the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Your Excellency the Secretary-General of the United Nations:

“Peace and the mercy and blessings of God be with you.”

And now a word from the U.S. State Department’s March 11, 2008, human-rights report on the peace and mercy during 2007 in the Saudi Arabia of King Abdullah:

• Violence against women and discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, and ethnicity were common. Limitations on the rights of foreign workers remained a severe problem.

• [Ministry of Interior] officials were responsible for most alleged incidents of physical abuse and torture of prisoners, including beatings, lashings, and suspension from bars by handcuffs.

• During the year according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the press reported 153 beheadings of individuals who were convicted of murder, narcotics-related offenses, and armed robbery, as well as of rape, sorcery and adultery.

Sorry, King Abdullah, were you saying something about “instruments to cause misery”?

“In the presence of this gathering of international leaders and representatives and members of the General Assembly — the conscience of the United Nations — and in front of the whole world, we state with a unified voice that religions through which Almighty God sought to bring happiness to mankind should not be turned into instruments to cause misery.

“Human beings were created as equals and partners on this planet; either they live together in peace and harmony, or they will inevitably be consumed by the flames of misunderstanding, malice and hatred.”

No wonder it’s so hot in Saudi Arabia. All those flames of misunderstanding. According to the State Department report on 2007 events:

• On May 23, religious police allegedly beat to death 28-year-old Suleiman al-Huraisi who was detained for the possession and sale of alcohol. After a three-month investigation, MOI officials charged two members of the religious police. On November 28, a court citing lack of evidence acquitted them.

• On June 1, a member of the religious police reportedly arrested Ahmad al-Bulawi in Tabuk on suspicion of being in “illegal seclusion” with an unrelated woman. An autopsy revealed he had been beaten on his face before dying at the religious police center. On July 30, the Tabuk General Investigation and Prosecution Authority ruled that the arresting authorities, members of the religious police and a security guard, were not guilty of any wrongdoing.

• During the week of August 5, a Bangladeshi man died in Medina while in the custody of the religious police. They arrested him for allegedly washing a car while he should have been attending prayers. The head of the religious police, Ibrahim al-Gaith, claimed that the man had fainted and that there were no signs of assault. At year’s end the case was pending with the Shari’a court of Medina.

If washing your car is a sin punishable by death then I’ll live forever. But that’s another story. Sorry, King, I was preoccupied. What were you saying?

“Dear Friends: Throughout history, preoccupation with differences between the followers of religions and cultures has engendered intolerance, causing devastating wars and considerable bloodshed without any sound logical or ideological justification.

“It is high time for us to learn from the harsh lessons of the past and concur on the ethics and ideals in which we all believe. Matters on which we differ will be decided by our Omniscient Creator on the Day of Judgment.

“Every tragedy suffered in today’s world is ultimately a result of the abandonment of the paramount principle enunciated by all religions and cultures: The roots of all global crises can be found in human denial of the eternal principle of justice.”

If there is an Allah, he’ll remember for eternity this episode cited in the State Department report:

In March 2006 in Qatif, seven men found a woman and her male companion together in a car and gang-raped them both.

The perpetrators were sentenced to between eight months and five years in prison and between 80 and 1,000 lashes. The same court also sentenced the woman and her ex-boyfriend to 90 lashes for being unmarried and alone in a car with an unmarried person of the opposite sex at the time of the incident.

On November 14, after her lawyer requested a review of the case, the Higher Court of Justice sent the case back to the Qatif General Court which increased the woman’s sentence from 90 lashes to 200 lashes and six months in prison and increased the perpetrators sentences to between two and nine years each.

The court also suspended her lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahem, for “insulting the Supreme Judicial Council and disobeying the rules and regulations,” reportedly for his efforts to publicize the woman’s case. The court confiscated al-Lahem’s license and asked him to appear before a disciplinary session at the Judicial Investigation Department of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

On November 24, the MOJ issued a statement “clarifying” the role of the two victims who “exposed” themselves to the crime because of their behavior. The statement stated that because the victims were alone in the car, they had violated Shari’a and were thus liable for punishment. On December 17, King Abdullah pardoned both victims, citing his authority to overrule judgments not specifically prescribed by Islamic legal code.

Now that’s what I call tolerance, King. Fill me in:

“Terrorism and criminality are the enemies of every religion and every civilization. They would not have appeared except for the absence of the principle of tolerance. The alienation and the sense of loss which affects the lives of many of or young, leading them to drugs and crime, became widespread due to the dissolution of family bonds that Almighty God intended to be firm and strong.

“Our dialogue, conducted in a constructive manner, should, by the grace of God, revive and reinstate these lofty ideals among peoples and nations. No doubt, God willing, this will constitute a glorious triumph of what is most noble over what is most evil in human beings and will grant mankind hope of a future in which justice, security and a decent life will prevail over injustice, fear and poverty.”

The State Department report does agree, King Abdullah, that your minions are constantly searching for evil:

During [2007], the religious police harassed and detained citizens and foreigners of both sexes.

[In 2006, Saudi officials] received numerous complaints of beatings, humiliation, confiscation of personal property and unnecessary body searches and the use of coercion to sign confessions. . . .

The government and/or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings; however, several individuals died after beatings that took place while in the custody of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), also known as the religious police or Mutawwa’in. . . .

The government also punished persons for various offenses with amputations for theft, and lashings, including for alcohol-related offenses or for being alone in the company of an unrelated person of the opposite sex. In contrast to previous years, there were no reports of lashings in the women’s prisons.

I cut you off, King Abdullah. Were you saying something about a hand?

“We will continue what we have commenced, extending our hand to all those advocating peace, justice and tolerance.

“In conclusion, I would like to remind all of you, and myself, of the words of the Holy Qur’an:

” ‘O Mankind! We have created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that ye may know each other. Very, the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.’ “

Or, self-righteous. Whatever.


Daily Flog: Warning to whitey, desired streetcars, soiled Lennon, two Georgias, Target practice

Running down the press:

Daily News: ‘First look at wife of John Lennon slayer in decades – she says let me be’

Jesus Christ! I’d forgotten that Mark David Chapman was such a sicko/twisted Lennon wannabe that he had also married a woman of Japanese descent.


Congratulations to the Post for not only mentioning in the second paragraph that the shooter had just been fired from a Target store but also for showing the maturity not to hammer into readers that grim irony, as I am immaturely doing right now.


Good story, better head. The fourth graf is key:

McCain has closed the gap by padding his lead among whites, Southerners and white evangelical Christians.

At least that should make the rest of us whites feel better — that we’re not quite as bad at acting on our institutionalized, internalized racist impulses.

Being upfront about race is something that much of the media is not doing. Witness this CNN story:

“McCain, Obama to address ‘values voters’ “

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama plan to appear together Saturday at a minister-moderated forum held in a church as thousands of evangelicals plan to gather in the nation’s capital to pressure both men move further to the right on social issues.

“Values voters” my shiny metal ass. The rest of us also vote our “values.” These are white conservative Christians (99 percent of them), so call them that in the headlines. Christ, there are even political parties in Europe that use “Christian” in their names.

Newsday: ‘Revealed: Julia Child was a U.S. spy in World War II’

This AP story is old news, but it does remind us why she seemed to have such mixed feelings about turkey.


Clever hed on this:

The 38-year-old Favre – who turns 39 in October – had his fifth practice yesterday morning for the New York Jets, but he admitted his arm wasn’t exactly feeling lively.

Brett Favre is one pro athlete who talks like a real person, unlike the platitudinous Derek Jeter, for example, or the former Giant blowhard Jeremy Shockey or the guarded-beyond-all-reason, high-paid choker Alex Rodriguez. Favre sez:

“I didn’t throw the ball very well this morning, underthrew some throws. No pain, but I’m 38 years old. It’s got to be fatigued a little bit. . . . I felt 38 today, I’m not going to lie to you.”

In his case, he probably won’t. A rare celebrity.

Times: ‘In a Generation, Minorities May Be the U.S. Majority’

Warning to whitey: Your reign as The Man will end sooner than predicted. Sam Roberts reports:

The census calculates that by 2042, Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites. Four years ago, officials had projected the shift would come in 2050.

The British press doesn’t whitewash this news with P.C. tentativeness. The BBC’s lede, for example:

White people of European descent will no longer make up a majority of the US population by the year 2042 – eight years sooner than previous estimates.

The big change is among Hispanics and Asians whose share of the population is set to double to 30% and 9%.

The Times more subtly emits a red-alert tone:

“No other country has experienced such rapid racial and ethnic change,” said Mark Mather, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a research organization in Washington.

Unless you’re talking about the Cherokee Nation. In that previous monumental conflict in Georgia (even before Sherman’s march), Andrew Jackson ethnically cleansed the Cherokees, herding them to the Ozarks along the Trail of Tears and replacing them with slaves and ballcap-wearing, NASCAR-loving rednecks.

Anyway, the Times just loves trend stories, and here’s a trend in the Times itself: Just last week (as I noted on August 7), the paper blared “‘Minorities Often a Majority of the Population Under 20’ “

Next topic for the Times: How do we protect the Upper West Side from these Visigoths?

Human Rights Watch: ‘High Toll from Attacks on Populated Areas’

Yes, NYC-based Human Rights Watch has an open bias as a Goody Two-Shoes, but also does some great reporting — unlike its better-known but stodgy fellow NGO Amnesty International — so why not include it in “the press”?

Mainstream international papers, like the Guardian (U.K.), have no problem giving HRW full credit when it breaks news stories. This morning the Guardian‘s Mark Tran notes:

Human Rights Watch provides the first independent confirmation that Georgian villages in South Ossetia have been looted and burned.

HRW is somewhat schizoid as a news source, because it always follows its great nuggets of news with predictable appeals to officials to stop the madness. For example, today it reports:

Forces on both sides in the conflict between Georgia and Russia appear to have killed and injured civilians through indiscriminate attacks, respectively, on the towns of Gori and Tskhinvali, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch expressed its deep concern over the apparently indiscriminate nature of the attacks that have taken such a toll on civilians.

Memo to HRW: Lose the second sentence, please, because your news reporting speaks for itself and you’re clouding the impact of that reporting with that squishy, predictable statement of “deep concern.” (I guess HRW feels it has to do that, but I ignore such statements of concern — who could disagree with such sentiments? — and take its reporting seriously. Keep reading this item and you’ll see why.)

U.S. papers refuse to include HRW and like groups in their press club, but the Internet dissolves that separation because HRW’s reports are as freely and directly available as news from other sources.

You may have forgotten — and the mainstream press has done nothing to help you remember — that HRW broke one of the most grim and explosive stories (so far) from the Iraq War.

Back in September 2005, HRW revealed that U.S. troops at Camp Mercury, outside Fallujah, proudly called themselves “Murderous Maniacs” as they tortured and beat up hapless Iraqi prisoners merely for sport — and in a highly sexualized way that was worse than at Abu Ghraib. As I wrote back then:

In a shocking new report, soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne reveal that they or their fellow soldiers routinely beat, tortured, stripped, humiliated, and starved Iraqi prisoners in 2003 and 2004 at a base near Fallujah, often breaking bones, either at the request of superiors or just to let off steam.

HRW wasn’t guessing, nor was it chiding from its Fifth Avenue offices. It waded right in and talked to U.S. troops about it. From its own report, “Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division”:

The accounts here suggest that the mistreatment of prisoners by the U.S. military is even more widespread than has been acknowledged to date, including among troops belonging to some of the best trained, most decorated, and highly respected units in the U.S. Army. They describe in vivid terms abusive interrogation techniques ordered by Military Intelligence personnel and known to superior officers. . . .

The torture of detainees reportedly was so widespread and accepted that it became a means of stress relief for soldiers.

Soldiers said they felt welcome to come to the PUC [Prisoner Under Control] tent on their off-hours to “Fuck a PUC” or “Smoke a PUC.” “Fucking a PUC” referred to beating a detainee, while “Smoking a PUC” referred to forced physical exertion sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.

Three years later, HRW has made its own march into Georgia. So keep tabs on its reporting. For that matter, keep checking the Guardian‘s Georgia page.

NY Observer: ‘Penguin Group Wins Rights to Steinbeck Novels’

Minor note on a major author, especially compared with Tony Ortega‘s unique yarn about Steinbeck and Mexican-American farmworkers in today’s Voice: “John Steinbeck’s Ghosts.”

Times: ‘Ruling Is a Victory for Supporters of Free Software’

John Markoff‘s piece about a court ruling in favor of open-source software is a little confusing, but the upshot is that a major pothole has been patched on our major transportation artery, the information highway.

Times: ‘Conflict Narrows Oil Options for West’

In other transportation news: Good piece by Jad Mouawad about our latest loss in the centuries-old Great Game in Central Asia, and bad news for us SUV owners:

[E]nergy experts say that the hostilities between Russia and Georgia could threaten American plans to gain access to more of Central Asia’s energy resources at a time when booming demand in Asia and tight supplies helped push the price of oil to record highs.

Times: ‘Downtowns Across the U.S. See Streetcars in Their Future’

Yet another transportation story.

Unfortunately, the Times blows this story by just briefly noting that cities and even small towns across the country had functioning streetcar lines until the mid 1950s, and not mentioning at all that it was the automobile lobby that killed them as it pressured pols to build the Interstate Highway System.

I don’t blanch at this new development because when I was a kid in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I depended on the kindness of streetcars. Public transit is a blessing, no matter how much my fellow straphangers grouse about the MTA and Long Island Rail Road.


Carolyn Salazar‘s lede is right to the point:

An enterprising squatter transformed a vacant Brooklyn lot into a thriving million-dollar business — an illegal parking lot and chop shop, prosecutors said yesterday.

Whereas powerful pol Shelly Silver is squatting like Jabba the Hutt on a vacant lot on the Lower East Side, as the Voice‘s Tom Robbins reports.

Daily News: ‘Gloomy Gotti trip to Sunshine State’

The latest installment of news about the fading Italian-American Gangster Era. John Marzulli reports:

Junior is on the move.

John A. (Junior) Gotti, aka Bureau of Prisons inmate 00632-748, began his journey to Tampa Wednesday to be arraigned on racketeering and murder charges.

Who gives a shit?

Daily News: ‘Elizabeth Edwards stayed with cheating husband John for children’s sake’

A perfect example of how the Daily News almost always lags behind the Post in tabloidian terms. The lede:

An anguished Elizabeth Edwards decided to stay with her cheating husband because she is dying and worried about their two young children, her closest friend says.

Only five tabloidian buzzers: “anguished,” “cheating,” “dying, “worried,” and “closest friend.” Yesterday, I noted eight in a Post Edwards lede.


Pentagon Acquits Itself Well on Abu Ghraib

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Jordan‘s acquittal of charges in his court-martial over Abu Ghraib tortures should have been no surprise. Only a week ago, some of the most serious charges against Jordan — including that he lied — were dropped just before the court-martial began.

It didn’t matter that the Abu Ghraib scandal — and its coverup — reached all the way up to the White House of Dick Cheney. Check out my August 22 piece, “Chains of Command,” for links to the Washington Post series on Cheney and to great stuff by the New Yorker‘s Seymour Hersh.

The Post‘s Josh White reports today:

The jury of nine colonels and a one-star general concluded that Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, 51, of Fredericksburg, Va., was not responsible for training or supervising soldiers who have been convicted of abusing detainees at the prison. Jordan was also cleared of charges that he personally abused prisoners, after prosecutors tried to link him to supervising the use of forced nudity and the use of military working dogs to intimidate detainees in interrogations in late 2003.

What’s curious is that White’s story today doesn’t at least mention the previous dropping of charges. After all, White’s excellent August 21 story reported it:

Military prosecutors dropped two charges against Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan yesterday, hours before his court-martial for allegedly abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was set to begin at Fort Meade.

The dismissal of allegations that Jordan lied to investigators in the 2004 probe of the notorious abuses was a last-minute surprise in the military courtroom at the Maryland Army base. Based on new evidence that surfaced over the weekend, prosecutors determined that Jordan had not been read his rights before giving detailed statements to Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, who led the seminal investigation into the Abu Ghraib scandal. Those statements are therefore inadmissible in the proceedings. …

The development was a significant victory for Jordan’s defense attorneys, who had been arguing for suppression of the statements. Jordan gave extensive statements to Fay outlining his role at Abu Ghraib and explaining specific incidents for which he has been criminally charged. In May, Henley also tossed out statements Jordan gave to Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, because Taguba also did not properly advise him of his rights. Now, none of Jordan’s statements can be used against him.

White explained the situation quite well in his earlier story, just before the court-martial trial began:

Fay’s failure to read Jordan his rights appears to be a major oversight in the probe, and prosecutors did not explain the discrepancy. The move reduces Jordan’s potential sentence almost by half, to a maximum of 8 1/2 years.

It was the latest in a series of odd twists in Jordan’s case. Prosecutors have recommended for years that Jordan face administrative punishment rather than trial. An investigative officer once advocated a reprimand to avoid a public rehashing of the Abu Ghraib abuses. And emerging evidence has now led to the dismissal of eight out of 12 original charges against the Army officer. Jordan said in a recent interview with The Washington Post that he believes he is a scapegoat because authorities want an officer to go to trial as a final chapter in the Abu Ghraib scandal, even though a more senior officer who admitted approving the use of dogs, Col. Thomas M. Pappas, received only a reprimand and a fine.

Jordan, 51, is the last soldier to face charges related to the Abu Ghraib abuses and the only officer to go to court-martial for alleged crimes there. A jury panel of nine Army colonels and one brigadier general is expected to hear opening statements in the case today, and yesterday each member told the court — under questioning by Capt. Samuel Spitzberg, one of Jordan’s defense attorneys — that they would not use Jordan’s trial as “a referendum on Abu Ghraib.”

In any case, don’t let Abu Ghraib slip down the memory hole. We’ve known for a long time that the genesis of the abuse was in D.C., that it was a rogue presidency, not just rogue soldiers. Read Hersh’s June story on Taguba and Taguba’s own 2004 report.


Chains of Command

To unravel the tortured excuses for Abu Ghraib abuses, go back to June 25, a day of brilliant journalism.

Once so proud of plans for “War on Terror detainees” that they even showed off their special Gitmo chains and other jewelry, the Bush regime’s various soldiers are now crying, as the Nazis did, “We were only following orders.” Or they’re saying, “Hey, I didn’t even give the orders.”

Blame them, but save the biggest share of blame for their higher-ups — all the way up to Vise President Dick Cheney.

The freshest example is that of Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, whose court-martial right now at Fort Meade, Maryland, for Abu Ghraib abuses that occurred on his watch is a travesty of cover-up upon cover-up.

Despite the fact that the soldiers under Jordan got off by torturing and humiliating prisoners — most of whom were innocent and none of whom were of any intelligence value — Jordan himself will probably get off with a wrist-slap.

Today’s account of this extremely important trial is buried on page A14 of the Washington Post:

Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the only officer charged in connection with abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, did not train, supervise or work directly with interrogators who questioned detainees, the prison’s top military intelligence officer testified yesterday.

Testifying for the prosecution in Jordan’s court-martial at Fort Meade, Col. Thomas M. Pappas said that Jordan’s duties centered on improving the quality of life for soldiers at the austere base outside Baghdad and improving the flow of intelligence information — not on the interrogations or harsh methods of eliciting information approved for use at the time.

The news cycles of real news, especially follow-ups, cause so much frustration. How can anyone put his or her hands around what’s going on?

Abu Ghraib blazed in the headlines in 2004, but now that details of who did what and when are coming out, it’s considered old news. That’s why I try to salt my posts with so many links. All we can do is point to some stories that point to the facts and provide context.

And one unmistakable fact is that no matter what happens to Jordan, the torture scandal goes all the way up the chain of command, right into the White House run by Dick Cheney.

When it comes to Abu Ghraib, all you really have to do is focus on just one day’s worth of brilliant journalism. Go back to this past June 25 and you’ll see what I mean.

Now, I’m not faulting the Post for burying today’s Jordan story. It has kicked the ass of the New York Times on almost every topic since the Bush regime came to power. While Jordan’s court-martial continues, go back and re-read the Post‘s stellar series on Cheney, particularly Barton Gellman and Jo Becker‘s June 25 “Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power,” which I wrote about that day. Here’s how that Post story began:

Shortly after the first accused terrorists reached the U.S. naval prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002, a delegation from CIA headquarters arrived in the Situation Room. The agency presented a delicate problem to White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, a man with next to no experience on the subject. Vice President Cheney’s lawyer, [David Addington], who had a great deal of experience, sat nearby. The meeting marked “the first time that the issue of interrogations comes up” among top-ranking White House officials, recalled John C. Yoo, who represented the Justice Department. “The CIA guys said, ‘We’re going to have some real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees'” if interrogators confined themselves to humane techniques allowed by the Geneva Conventions.

From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive’s will to resist. The vice president’s office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials.

Remarkable stuff. Too bad it didn’t come out before the November 2004 presidential election.

If you really want to understand how such a coverup happened — and what tragic roles this Colonel Jordan and various other officials played in this sick drama —go back to Seymour Hersh‘s brilliant piece “The General’s Report: How Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties,” also published on June 25.

Taguba’s investigation (PDF of his report) was circumscribed by his higher-ups, Hersh reveals. And of course now it comes out that Jordan supposedly wasn’t read his rights at the proper time and he might skate on serious charges.

What about the people above — way above — Jordan? Hersh’s reporting explodes the Bush regime’s lame excuse that Abu Ghraib’s abuses were the work of a few “rogue soldiers”:

Taguba came to believe that Lieutenant General [Ricardo] Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, and some of the generals assigned to the military headquarters in Baghdad had extensive knowledge of the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib even before Joseph Darby came forward with the CD. Taguba was aware that in the fall of 2003 — when much of the abuse took place — Sanchez routinely visited the prison, and witnessed at least one interrogation. According to Taguba, “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on.”

Taguba learned that in August, 2003, as the Sunni insurgency in Iraq was gaining force, the Pentagon had ordered Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantánamo, to Iraq. His mission was to survey the prison system there and to find ways to improve the flow of intelligence. The core of Miller’s recommendations, as summarized in the Taguba report, was that the military police at Abu Ghraib should become part of the interrogation process: they should work closely with interrogators and intelligence officers in “setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees.”

Taguba concluded that Miller’s approach was not consistent with Army doctrine, which gave military police the overriding mission of making sure that the prisons were secure and orderly. His report cited testimony that interrogators and other intelligence personnel were encouraging the abuse of detainees. “Loosen this guy up for us,” one M.P. said he was told by a member of military intelligence. “Make sure he has a bad night.”

The M.P.s, Taguba said, “were being literally exploited by the military interrogators. My view is that those kids” — even the soldiers in the photographs — “were poorly led, not trained, and had not been given any standard operating procedures on how they should guard the detainees.”

Rogue soldiers? No, a rogue presidency.


No Child Left Alive


Iraqi children who haven’t been blown up or burned alive by car bombs may not be the lucky ones. Millions — yes, millions — of Iraqi kids have fled their homes, and many of those youngsters are now parentless.

Those who do manage to avoid “incorporeity” and grow up have a good chance at becoming terrorists — if they can only maintain their sanity.

The good news is that practically all of the hundreds of corpses routinely fished out of the Tigris River downstream from Baghdad are those of young men, not children.

For the bad news, Monday’s report from Baghdead by IRIN, the U.N.’s news service, noted:

“Iraq’s conflict is taking an immense and unnoticed psychological toll on children and youth that will have long-term consequences,” said Bilal Youssif Hamid, a Baghdad-based child psychiatrist.

“The lack of resources means the social impact will be very bad and the coming generations, especially this one, will be aggressive,” Hamid added.

According to UNICEF, half of Iraq’s four million people who have fled their homes since 2003 are children. Many were killed inside their schools or playgrounds and gangs routinely kidnap children for ransom.

Yes, millions of kids.

It’s terrible that nearly 4,000 Americans have died because of the unjustified invasion of Iraq. Aside from the publicized rape of a 14-year-old girl by U.S. soldiers and the murders of her and her family, here’s some of what is happening to Iraqi kids:

Twenty starving, mentally handicapped boys were discovered naked and tied to their beds in a Baghdad orphanage last month. Food was in the next room, along with the people who were supposed to take care of the boys.

Mentally handicapped boys who aren’t tied to their beds are sometimes used as decoys by rebels during terror attacks. Says one: “They fight people who are occupying Iraq and they said that if I do my work well, God will protect me and make me be a healthy boy.”

Thousands of homeless children throughout Iraq survive by begging, stealing, or scavenging in garbage for food.

The number of orphans is steadily rising, and many of them are now illegally working. “I have no choice,” says 12-year-old Iyad Abdel-Salim. “Life in Iraq has turned into hell. It is dangerous to work in the streets. Twice men tried to rape me. God protected me and I was saved, but maybe one day I will be abused.”


‘Incorporeity’: Increase Your Wartime Vocabulary

This morning’s L.A. Times report that the U.S. and its allies are killing more Afghan civilians than the Taliban are could be just the tip of the coffin.

In Iraq, documents that the ACLU pried from the War Department indicate that the U.S. often rejects claims — even defying judges’ rulings — that its troops have killed innocent civilians. And one of those rejected claims shows that a seldom-used word — “incorporeity” — is creeping into the wartime language.

Judges are granting “incorporeity damages” for civilian deaths, as the document below shows, but U.S. officials often rejected such claims. In the case below, an Iraqi claims that his son was killed by troops as he approached a checkpoint on his way to market. A judge valued the son at $7,500 — $5,000 for “killed my son” and $2,500 for “incorporeity damages” — but U.S. officials said his behavior was “threatening” and refused to pay.

Heretofore not used to describe the death of Iraq civilians, “incorporeity” comes from “incorporeal,” according to my OED, which I guess you could say backs up the U.S. position: The first OED definition of “incorporeal”:

Having no bodily or material structure; not composed of matter; immaterial.

The second definition gets right to it:

Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of immaterial beings.

That’s accurate. As I pointed out in October 2004, General Tommy Franks remarked early on, “We don’t do body counts,” but others were, including Iraq Body Count, which has documented 65,000 violent deaths so far. It used to be that we did most of the killing, but now of course it’s the rebels’ bombs and suicide runs that account for most of it. Nevertheless, IBC noted in a March 2007 rundown:

Coalition-caused deaths.
Coalition forces, principally US as well as some UK, were identified to have killed at least 536 Iraqi civilians in year four (excluding a major incident in Najaf in January which is still under investigation by IBC). This compares with 370 in year three. If 536 seems insignificant in light of the overall total, consider for a moment what it would mean if in your country there were, on average, three incidents a week in which a foreign army killed civilians, including the killing of a 5-yr-old girl and entire families with their children. Would this army be a stabilising influence?

Check out the batch of Iraq death claims yourself at this ACLU page; there’s even a search engine on civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The same kind of destabilizing is happening in Afghanistan, where Hamid Karzai‘s government is shakier all the time. This morning’s L.A. Times story notes:

After more than five years of increasingly intense warfare, the conflict in Afghanistan reached a grim milestone in the first half of this year: U.S. troops and their NATO allies killed more civilians than insurgents did, according to several independent tallies. . . .

But the growing toll is causing widespread disillusionment among the Afghan people, eroding support for the government of President Hamid Karzai and exacerbating political rifts among NATO allies about the nature and goals of the mission in Afghanistan.

More than 500 Afghan civilians have been reported killed this year, and the rate has dramatically increased in the last month.

The Times story tries to be fair:

Still, Western military leaders argue that any comparison of casualties caused by Western forces and by the Taliban is fundamentally unfair because there is a clear moral distinction to be made between accidental deaths resulting from combat operations and deliberate killings of innocents by militants.

“No [Western] soldier ever wakes up in the morning with the intention of harming any Afghan citizen,” said Maj. John Thomas, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. “If that does inadvertently happen, it is deeply, deeply regretted.”

Well, it’s not true that no Western soldier wakes up in the morning with the intention of harming a civilian. How about the Abu Ghraib tortures, which my colleague Graham Rayman recently revisited?

A better example is soldier Steven Green, leader of a rape crew that prosecutors say got drunk, put on masks, invaded an apartment, raped a 14-year-old girl and killed her and her whole family.

Green’s now facing the death penalty, so maybe at some point he’ll become incorporeal himself.


Celebrating a Cancer


Blow up the candles. Blow them up all over the world. George W. Bush‘s 61st birthday is tomorrow, July 6. Things are so bad that even the Presidential Prayer Team, focusing on “Today’s Immediate Concerns,” is praying as we speak that our troops come home:

Pray for President Bush today as he continues to work with military leaders and the Iraqi government to bring strength and stability to that nation, enabling eventual withdrawal U.S. troops…

Pray also for the President as he observes his 61st birthday tomorrow, asking God for protection and strength for him…

Pray for residents of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas who are struggling to recover from devastating floods there…

Naturally, the prayer team’s birthday wishes for Bush take precedence over a bunch of Okies and Kansans, not to mention people from his adopted home state. But for Bush — remember his slow reaction to the tsunami and his performance before and after Hurricane Katrina — natural disasters aren’t his focus.

Manmade disasters are his thing. So buy at least 3,583 candles.

Yes, Bush’s birth date, among other things, makes him a Cancer with a capital “C.” As for our de facto president, Dick Cheney, you’ll have to wait six months to celebrate his next birthday: He turns 67 on January 30, 2008.

It should have already dawned on you that we really are living in the age of Aquarius.


Cheney as Furor

Grabbing onto the coattails of the Washington Post‘s brilliant series, “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” Democratic party activists and consultants are wailing that “Dick Cheney is a war criminal.”

I guess that makes the whole host of Democrats who went along with the regime’s march to war during the crucial Congressional votes of October 2002 “war schlemiels.”

Barefoot boy with sheikh: An Arab being tortured at Abu Ghraib, thanks to the brainstorming of Cheney (far right).

The Post series is indeed explosive. As this morning’s dispatch, “Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power,” by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, shows, Cheney and other top officials personally brainstormed how to violate the Constitution and perfect the torture of Arabs captured during the War of Terror.

Basically, Cheney acts as if he were a sheikh, kind of a Dick of Arabia. No wonder Halliburton, which continues to take cues from ex-CEO Cheney and kept paying a salary to the vice president through at least the first six years of his reign at the White House, has fled to Dubai. The United Arab Emirates is one of the most repressive regimes on Earth. Our own State Department says:

• “The law permits indefinite routine prolonged incommunicado detention without appeal.”

• “The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the government restricted these rights in practice. The government drafts all Friday sermons in mosques and censors private association publications. . . . The law prohibits criticism of the rulers, and from acts to create or encourage social unrest.

• “Organized public gatherings require a government permit. No permits were given for organized public gatherings for political purposes.”

• “There are no political organizations, political parties, or trade unions.”

• “Unrestricted foreign travel and emigration is permitted for male citizens, except those involved in legal disputes under adjudication. Custom dictates that a husband can bar his wife, minor children, and adult unmarried daughters from leaving the country by taking custody of their passports.”

• “The law does not provide to citizens the right to change their government peacefully, or to freely change the laws that govern them. There are no democratic elections or institutions and citizens do not have the right to form political parties.”

Otherwise, Dubai, where the world’s tallest building is being erected, is a great place. It’s the dream of people like Cheney. Business and government are one and the same. Most of the workers are foreigners — only 5 percent of Emirati citizens work. Development has run amuck. An oligarchy controls everything.

Burdened by an intolerable climate (as hot as Phoenix and as humid as Houston), Dubai is bursting with outrageous resorts. It’s a playpen for the rich — more like a sandbox.

D.C. isn’t the greatest place, either, and it’s also a playpen, as the Post series points out. From this morning’s piece:

Shortly after the first accused terrorists reached the U.S. naval prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002, a delegation from CIA headquarters arrived in the Situation Room. The agency presented a delicate problem to White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, a man with next to no experience on the subject. Vice President Cheney’s lawyer, who had a great deal of experience, sat nearby. The meeting marked “the first time that the issue of interrogations comes up” among top-ranking White House officials, recalled John C. Yoo, who represented the Justice Department. “The CIA guys said, ‘We’re going to have some real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees'” if interrogators confined themselves to humane techniques allowed by the Geneva Conventions.

From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive’s will to resist. The vice president’s office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials.

Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden “torture” and permitted use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government.

Hope there’s a special section in the George W. Bush Presidential Libary on Cheney. Actually, that library should be only a wing to Dick Cheney’s tome tomb.

Where were the Post and other U.S. media back in the spring of 2005 when the Times of London — one of Rupert Murdoch‘s papers — revealed what became known as the Downing Street Memo and other documents laying out the furtive plotting in 2002 behind the unjustified invasion of Iraq?


A Chicken in Every Plot

Eternally linked: Lynndie England, chicken-stomping, human-stomping, predatory lending, Bush campaign cash, the Dobsons, and the National Day of Prayer

Lynndie England‘s life has degenerated into little more than a double-wide soap opera. But before you wash your hands of her, feast on this link between her and last week’s holier-than-thou National Day of Prayer—and to the Bush campaign chest and predatory lending. Connect the dots and you’ll see there’s a chicken in every plot:

Before enlisting in the Army, the Abu Ghraib poster girl worked in a chicken-processing plant an hour’s drive from her Fort Ashby, West Virginia, trailer, according to USA Today.

The most popular such plant for Fort Ashby residents—it’s exactly 59 minutes away, according to MapQuest—is the huge Pilgrim’s Pride chicken-processing complex in Moorefield, West Virginia.

In July 2004, PETA released a video— secretly shot inside the Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Moorefield—that showed murder most fowl:

Workers were caught on video stomping on chickens, kicking them, and violently slamming them against floors and walls. Workers also ripped the animals’ beaks off, twisted their heads off, spat tobacco into their eyes and mouths, spray-painted their faces, and squeezed their bodies so hard that the birds expelled feces—all while the chickens were still alive.

This stomach-turning stuff—and its link to England’s home state—was noted at the time by several bloggers, including those on Digestible News.

Say, that “stomping” sounds familiar. I wrote about that technique last summer in “You Flinched!”—an item about testimony from an Abu Ghraib soldier.

Also last summer, Princeton ethicist Peter Singer made the connection between the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the torture of chickens at Moorefield. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece he co-wrote (and that was re-posted by Dangerous Citizen), Singer noted:

The sickening images echo the snapshots and videotapes that found their way out of another inhumane facility: Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In both Baghdad and Moorefield, W.Va., a simple cruel dynamic was at work. When humans have unchecked power over those they see as inferior, they may abuse it. Slaughterhouse workers do not expect to be chastised for hurting animals. And the American soldiers at Abu Ghraib clearly did not expect punishment, or they would not have posed for photographs. In both instances, laws or treaties that should have protected against the abuses were unknown or ignored. That is not surprising: Where much abuse is allowed, the protections that do exist are unlikely to be taken seriously.

The Department of Justice has considered in detail when prisoners in the war on terror may be exempt from the humane protections of the Geneva Convention. The government has long since made that leap with animals. Chickens, for example, are exempt from the U.S. Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

Singer didn’t mention Lynndie England, but I’ll bet she didn’t treat chickens any better than she treated Iraqis.

Pilgrim’s Pride is the second largest chicken producer in the country. Here’s how Reuters (through Yahoo’s page on the company) puts it:

During fiscal year ended October 2, 2004 (fiscal 2004), the company sold 5.3 billion pounds of dressed chicken and 310.2 million pounds of dressed turkey and generated net sales of $5.4 billion.

Its profit margins were gross:

For the 26 weeks ended 4/2/05, revenues rose 13% to $2.74 billion. Net income totaled $104.9 million, up from $43.2 million. Revenues reflect an increase in chicken sales. Net income also reflects an increase in gross profit margins.

Operating out of the Pilgrim’s Pride home office in Pittsburg, Texas, the company’s owner, Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim (see photo), is one of the country’s major individual donors to George W. Bush and the Republican Party. He was a “Minor League Pioneer” for Bush in 2000 and a “Major League Pioneer” for Bush in 2004, according to Texans for Public Justice.

Recall the company’s history: In 2002, TPJ reminds us, Pilgrim’s Pride recalled 27 million pounds of meat after one of its plants was thought to be the source of “a listeria outbreak that killed eight people, caused three miscarriages, and hospitalized dozens of victims.” Heavily fined by environmental regulators for illegally discharging massive amounts of chicken shit and other filth, Pilgrim’s Pride was at the same time “the 10th largest recipient of federal agricultural subsidies from 1995 through 2002,” adds TPJ.

Bo Pilgrim wears his fundamentalist Christianity on his sleeve and on his butcher’s apron. As Marv Knox of the Baptist Standard quoted him as saying in 2002:

There’s no doubt that God wanted me to exemplify being a Christian businessman. I have that feeling, and I am forever conscious of that. I’ll go out and make lots of talks around the country. There’s where I give Jesus credit for everything I am.

Start of digression: Knox tried to get Pilgrim to solve an age-old puzzle. Here’s the exchange:

Knox: With all your history in chickens, do you know why the chicken crossed the road?

Pilgrim: I wish I could give you the answer. I guess everybody has a different answer, but I never really coined an answer for why the chicken crossed the road.

End of digression.

Last year, Bo Pilgrim, who controls more than 60 percent of his huge, publicly traded company, put Keith W. Hughes on its board of directors.

Hughes was the CEO of Associates First Capital, a subprime lender accused of predatory lending.

Associates First was so notorious that in 2000, the giant company’s last year of independent existence, the United Methodist Church’s pension fund, the Priests of Sacred Heart, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word brought a shareholders resolution to try to get the company to investigate itself for predatory lending and clean up its act. The resolution failed.

The government’s case against Associates First was settled only after Citigroup swallowed Hughes’s company and coughed up $215 million to the Federal Trade Commission to pay off 2 million former customers. At the time of the 2002 settlement, it was the largest in FTC history.

Last Thursday (May 5), George W. Bush hosted the annual National Day of Prayer ceremony in the East Room of the White House. The first speaker was Shirley Dobson, wife of right-wing radio evangelist James Dobson. Shirley Dobson is also chairman of the National Day of Prayer—yes, she calls herself “chairman” and “Mrs. Shirley Dobson.”

After the choir stopped singing, Shirley Dobson stepped to the microphone in the White House, fawned over the Bushes for a little bit and officially launched the National Day of Prayer. (You can watch her performance, and Bush’s speech, on the White House site.)

Millions of Americans, she said, “will seek the grace of God” today. She added:

For example, Pilgrim’s Pride, one of America’s largest producers of chicken products, is holding prayer observances in 56 of its facilities in 17 countries.

It was the only company she mentioned. (She did say that 150,000 people were supposed to gather at Daytona Beach Speedway to try to crash the pearly gates. Yee-haw!)

With the saccharine tone and sing-song cadence of a beauty pageant contestant’s spiel, she praised Pilgrim’s Pride but scolded the rest of us.

That scolding stuff is a familiar rap by the right-wing Christians—it’s all explained by Shirley Dobson on her “Prayerfully Yours” page of the National Day of Prayer website:

As sinners saved by grace we must realize not only that we don’t deserve God’s favor, but that we do deserve His wrath! The miracle of God’s grace is that He extends mercy to us in spite of our wickedness and rebellion against Him. Put another way, “mercy” is not getting what we deserve, and “grace” is getting what we don’t deserve.

We need not look very far to see that our country stands in desperate need of God’s healing touch. We have killed over 40 million babies since 1973, and saturated ourselves and our children with pornography and filth. We have numbed ourselves with drugs and alcohol, and taught our kids that premarital sex is a good thing if it is simply done right. We have pursued materialism and false security, while ignoring the Architect of our souls.

As a nation, we have rebelled against the Creator. Our culture is steeped in immorality and self-sufficiency and is growing increasingly hostile toward religious expression.

Self-sufficiency? Have we fallen that far?

I know some chickens that could use “God’s healing touch.” But anyway, back to the White House. To her audience in the East Room, Mrs. Shirley Dobson toned it down a little bit, saying that her dictionary defines “grace” as something that’s “undeserved,” and adding:

Almighty God continues to bless America despite the fact that we corporately and individually have turned our backs on Him in many ways.

But our Creator is patient with us, granting His favor and forbearance even though we don’t deserve it.

Speak for yourself, Mrs. America.

The president, of course, is a key part of any Christian puppet show. When Bush took the microphone, he smiled at the Dobsons and said:

I want to thank Shirley Dobson, the chairman of the National Day of Prayer. Thank you for organizing this event and thank you for your wonderful comments.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To escape from these religious nuts. The rest of us humans could also use a wing and a prayer.