Archive for November, 2007
Friday, November 30th, 2007
Wednesday, November 28th, 2007
I’ve posted numerous times on torture here, there and elsewhere.
So I was glad to see Stephen King discussing the issue. I disagree with him that we need to waterboard anyone to see if it is torture (I know he was using waterboarding Jenna Bush to make a sartirical point) because the military and U.S. courts have said for decades that waterboarding is torture. We convicted enemy soldiers for war crimes for waterboarding prisoners in World War II.
Other than that, I agree with Stephen King on torture, the mass media, and politics.
STEPHEN KING: So who’s going to be TIME Person of the Year?
TIME: I really don’t know, there’s a very small group of people who make that decision.
STEPHEN KING: I was thinking, I think it should be Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.
STEPHEN KING: Yeah. You know, I just filmed a segment for Nightline, about [the movie version of his novella] The Mist, and one of the things I said to them was, you know, “You guys are just covering — what do they call it — the scream of the peacock, and you’re missing the whole fox hunt.” Like waterboarding [or] where all the money went that we poured into Iraq. It just seems to disappear. And yet you get this coverage of who’s gonna get custody of Britney’s kids? Whether or not Lindsay drank at her twenty-first birthday party, and all this other shit.
You know, this morning, the two big stories on CNN are Kanye West’s mother, who died, apparently, after having some plastic surgery. The other big thing that’s going on is whether or not this cop [Drew Peterson] killed his… wife. And meanwhile, you’ve got Pakistan in the midst of a real crisis, where these people have nuclear weapons that we helped them develop. You’ve got a guy in charge, who’s basically declared himself the military strongman and is being supported by the Bush administration, whose raison d’etre for going into Iraq was to spread democracy in the world.
So you’ve got these things going on, which seem to me to be very substantive, that could affect all of us, and instead, you see a lot of this back-fence gossip. So I said something to the Nightline guy about waterboarding, and if the Bush administration didn’t think it was torture, they ought to do some personal investigation. Someone in the Bush family should actually be waterboarded so they could report on it to George. I said, I didn’t think he would do it, but I suggested Jenna be waterboarded and then she could talk about whether or not she thought it was torture. And then the guy from Nightline said, “Well, obviously you’ve not been watching World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson.” But I do — I watch ’em all!
It is amazing that support of torture – an ineffective tool that seems to speak to the most craven sadistic minds – has become such a linch pin of the rightwing.
That says more about how they think than we’d ever get from waterboarding them.
Wednesday, November 28th, 2007
Well, okay – coffin cheesecake is far more accurate… But would you have clicked if the title was “Coffin cheesecake”? I think not!
An Italian coffin manufacturer has, well… I’ll let Ship of Fools describe it:
Every year, Cofanifunebri, who have been making coffins, funeral urns and other deathware in Rome since the 1960s, produce what amounts to the Pirelli Calendar for morticians, undertakers and – who knows? – zombies, too, probably. Semi-clad Italian lovelies drape themselves over sturdy coffins, offering an invitation to help them secure the lid more securely.
It’s not that it’s NSFW – it’s pinup-style cheesecake, after all. It’s just that you might get some… looks for oogling the sultry woman with the coffin. That in mind, Miss January is, as they say, below the fold…
Tuesday, November 27th, 2007
Incredible. From The London Daily Mail:
Nestling in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy, 30 miles from the ancient city of Turin, lies the valley of Valchiusella. Peppered with medieval villages, the hillside scenery is certainly picturesque.
But it is deep underground, buried into the ancient rock, that the region’s greatest wonders are concealed.
Here, 100ft down and hidden from public view, lies an astonishing secret – one that has drawn comparisons with the fabled city of Atlantis and has been dubbed ‘the Eighth Wonder of the World’ by the Italian government.
For weaving their way underneath the hillside are nine ornate temples, on five levels, whose scale and opulence take the breath away.
Constructed like a three-dimensional book, narrating the history of humanity, they are linked by hundreds of metres of richly decorated tunnels and occupy almost 300,000 cubic feet – Big Ben is 15,000 cubic feet.
But the ‘Temples of Damanhur’ are not the great legacy of some long-lost civilisation, they are the work of a 57-year-old former insurance broker from northern Italy who, inspired by a childhood vision, began digging into the rock.
It all began in the early Sixties when Oberto Airaudi was aged ten. From an early age, he claims to have experienced visions of what he believed to be a past life, in which there were amazing temples.
Around these he dreamed there lived a highly evolved community who enjoyed an idyllic existence in which all the people worked for the common good.
But it was only as he began a successful career as an insurance broker that he began to search for his perfect site.
In 1977, he selected a remote hillside where he felt the hard rock would sustain the structures he had in mind.
A house was built on the hillside and Falco moved in with several friends who shared his vision. Using hammers and picks, they began their dig to create the temples of Damanhur – named after the ancient subterranean Egyptian temple meaning City of Light – in August 1978.
Monday, November 26th, 2007
You can’t see the real thing so you’ll just have to imagine God’s foot stool.
Thursday, November 22nd, 2007
Tuesday, November 20th, 2007
Sunday, November 18th, 2007
At this point in the rule of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, I thought I had reached shock fatigue. We’ve seen illegal invasions, torture, unprecedented levels of corruption, a warrantless wiretapping on a nationwide scale, and an erosion of national credibility on everything from the environment to the rule of law.
Yet this morning I read a story that filled me anew with fresh outrage and I think exemplifies the horrors – the absolute horrors – of this administration and the political ideology behind them.
The article is in Vanity Fair’s November edition, The People vs. the Profiteers. (If this was diaried earlier this month, my apologies. I did a search on several key words and did not see it. Vanity Fair is a very thick magazine and I read it from front to back so I usually read it spaced out over the entire month).
In it, the writer, David Rose, covers how an attorney, Alan Grayson, has led a campaign against government corruption. He’s done so for 16 years. In the past the Department of Justice often allied with him to root out corrupt officials. But when it has come to the Iraq war, the DOJ has thrown up roadblock after roadblock.
In this administration corruption on a massive scale is a statistic. It’s an example Rose uses from among the cases that is the outrage.
Consider the case of Grayson’s client Bud Conyers, a big, bearded 43-year-old who lives with his ex-wife and her nine children, four of them his, in Enid, Oklahoma. Conyers worked in Iraq as a driver for Kellogg, Brown & Root. Spun off by Halliburton as an independent concern in April, KBR is the world’s fifth-largest construction company. Before the war started, the Pentagon awarded it two huge contracts: one, now terminated, to restore the Iraqi oil industry, and another, still in effect, to provide a wide array of logistical-support services to the U.S. military.
In the midday heat of June 16, 2003, Conyers was summoned to fix a broken refrigerated truck-a “reefer,” in contractor parlance-at Log Base Seitz, on the edge of Baghdad’s airport. He and his colleagues had barely begun to inspect the sealed trailer when they found themselves reeling from a nauseating stench. The freezer was powered by the engine, and only after they got it running again, several hours later, did they dare open the doors.
The trailer, unit number R-89, had been lying idle for two weeks, Conyers says, in temperatures that daily reached 120 degrees. “Inside, there were 15 human bodies,” he recalls. “A lot of liquid stuff had just seeped out. There were body parts on the floor: eyes, fingers. The goo started seeping toward us. Boom! We shut the doors again.” The corpses were Iraqis, who had been placed in the truck by a U.S. Army mortuary unit that was operating in the area. That evening, Conyers’s colleague Wallace R. Wynia filed an official report: “On account of the heat the bodies were decomposing rapidly…. The inside of the trailer was awful.”
(As an aside, I have smelled the sickly sweet stench of putrified corpses more times than I care to recall. It is one of the worst smells in existence. I cannot imagine what 15 trapped inside a metal trailer for two weeks in the desert heat would have been like.)
Under any consideration, the rule of civilian or military regulations or laws, religious taboos, and basic human decency, there are prohibitions against carrying food and water in the same containers that had been used to carry human corpses – yet alone putrid corpses.
But that is exactly what is being done in Iraq. To our soldiers. With our tax dollars.
But when Bud Conyers next caught sight of trailer R-89, about a month later, it was packed not with human casualties but with bags of ice-ice that was going into drinks served to American troops. He took photographs, showing the ice bags, the trailer number, and the wooden decking, which appeared to be stained red. Another former KBR employee, James Logsdon, who now works as a police officer near Enid, says he first saw R-89 about a week after Conyers’s grisly discovery. “You could still see a little bit of matter from the bodies, stuff that looked kind of pearly, and blood from the stomachs. It hadn’t even been hosed down. Afterwards, I saw that truck in the P.W.C.-the public warehouse center-several times. There’s nothing there except food and ice. It was backed up to a dock, being loaded.”
This is where a Republican ideology leads us. The for-profit contractor used a refrigerated tractor trailer permeated with human remains in the wood floor and on the floor itself to carry ice and probably food.
Profit over people – even when it comes to the troops they claim to support. They outsourced a basic government service of the feed and care of the troops for a for-profit enterprise which didn’t care about their health or human decency.
It came down to a shortage of refrigerated trucks. Rather than buy more, Kellough Brown and Root kept it running from corpse hauling to food hauling. Conyers was fired by KBR for not being a “team player.”
How KBR treated Conyers would itself be an outrage but after hauling ice for human consumption with the remains of putrid corpses, anything KBR does under that pales in comparison. The entire story is well worth a read, including how the DOJ is using a provision of the whistle-blower law probably to keep incidents like this rather than to investigate them as it should.
Grayson has hope that one day the deep-rooted profiteering and corruption of the Iraq war will come to light.
There are a few encouraging signs that a day of reckoning is drawing near. Committees in both the House and the Senate have held hearings on contracting in Iraq, and several plan to hold more. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, has introduced a War Profiteering Prevention Act, which would make it much easier to investigate corrupt contractors and call them to account. And in August, the news that tens of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces had vanished or been stolen prompted the Pentagon to announce that its inspector general, Claude M. Kicklighter, would lead an 18-person team to investigate “contracting practices” in Iraq.
In the more distant future, a Democratic administration might open up the vaults and expose the American public to the scale of what has been looted. “What we have seen up to now is the worst of the worst in terms of a deliberate cover-up,” Grayson says. But if and when it comes to an end, he thinks it’s entirely possible that Congress will appoint a special prosecutor-one whose targets might one day reach “an extremely high level.”
We can only hope. But I think the stench will linger forever.
Sunday, November 18th, 2007
Sure, they seem cute. Until they go on an urban rampage.
Troupes of monkeys are out of control in India’s northeast, stealing mobile phones and breaking into homes to steal soft drinks from refrigerators, lawmakers in the region have complained.
“Monkeys are wreaking havoc in my constituency by taking away mobile phones, toothpastes, sipping coke after opening the refrigerators,” Hiren Das told Assam state’s assembly.
He said the primates were “even slapping women who try to chase them”.
“It is a cause of serious concern in my area, with more than 1,000 such simians turning aggressive by the day,” fumed Goneswar Das, another legislator representing Raha in eastern Assam.
Assam’s wildlife minister, Rockybul Hussain, said the state government has formed a panel to study the problem.
Because of shrinking forest cover, monkeys have increasingly moved into cities elsewhere in India as well.
Last week, around two dozen people were hurt after monkeys rampaged through a New Delhi neighbourhood.
Last month, the deputy mayor of Delhi died when he fell from his balcony after being attacked by monkeys.
Efforts to drive out the animals is complicated by the fact that devout Hindus view them as an incarnation of Hanuman, the monkey god who symbolises strength.
I wonder who they’re calling with the stolen cellphones?
Saturday, November 17th, 2007
How to charge an iPod or MP3 player with an onion.