Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Beyond the Pale...or not.

This is, at first glance, a shocking thing. Here we have a sitting vice president pushing for torture to become a legally allowed instrument of war, essentially, for the United States, bastion of freedom from oppression and purveyor of democracy. Uh huh. Yeah, then when I think about it, it isn't really a surprise. It isn't really Beyond the Pale. It's yet another sign that this administration is something from beneath the Pit. Cheney, whom I never thought cared a wit about the American People, doesn't even try to hide it anymore. He is fully exposed as something cold, brutal, and calculatingly vicious; a walking betrayal of things we were taught in school our nation stood for. Where does the President stand, that guy that just plain folks might like to have a beer with more than they would John Kerry? Where is his comment on this? Their ain't one, padnuh! Well, shoot! I guess we shouldn't be too shocked by that, but still, what the hell happened here? How did we get from being a nation much of the Free World gravitated toward because we didn't throw people in gulags for things they read or said, to being a nation that not only condones torture, but whose executive branch seeks to legalize it? Not saying the CIA hasn't engaged in all kinds of dirty things under several administrations, but now this White House wants it made official that its OK to torture prisoners. Does anyone need to know anymore about the outlook of these people that have slithered into office? Is there any reason to wonder why so many people distrust and dislike these swine? This country is being taken away from its roots in ways that should alarm everyone who thinks that the foundation built over the last 200 + years is worth anything at all. John McCain has his drawbacks, but at least he's drawn a line in the sand. Thank God someone did. Let's hope the Senate stands firm against the threatened veto, and enough representatives see the value in what he's trying to do.

This from the Washington Post (in full so you don't have to wrassle with their registration page):

"Vice President for Torture
Wednesday, October 26, 2005; Page A18
VICE PRESIDENT Cheney is aggressively pursuing an initiative that may be unprecedented for an elected official of the executive branch: He is proposing that Congress legally authorize human rights abuses by Americans. "Cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners is banned by an international treaty negotiated by the Reagan administration and ratified by the United States. The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating it. Now Mr. Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would allow the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.
His position is not just some abstract defense of presidential power. The CIA is holding an unknown number of prisoners in secret detention centers abroad. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, it has refused to register those detainees with the International Red Cross or to allow visits by its inspectors. Its prisoners have "disappeared," like the victims of some dictatorships. The Justice Department and the White House are known to have approved harsh interrogation techniques for some of these people, including "waterboarding," or simulated drowning; mock execution; and the deliberate withholding of pain medication. CIA personnel have been implicated in the deaths during interrogation of at least four Afghan and Iraqi detainees. Official investigations have indicated that some aberrant practices by Army personnel in Iraq originated with the CIA. Yet no CIA personnel have been held accountable for this record, and there has never been a public report on the agency's performance.
It's not surprising that Mr. Cheney would be at the forefront of an attempt to ratify and legalize this shameful record. The vice president has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration's decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and to break with decades of past practice by the U.S. military. These decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Cheney's counsel, David S. Addington, was reportedly one of the principal authors of a legal memo justifying the torture of suspects. This summer Mr. Cheney told several Republican senators that President Bush would veto the annual defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.
The senators ignored Mr. Cheney's threats, and the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), passed this month by a vote of 90 to 9. So now Mr. Cheney is trying to persuade members of a House-Senate conference committee to adopt language that would not just nullify the McCain amendment but would formally adopt cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as a legal instrument of U.S. policy. The Senate's earlier vote suggests that it will not allow such a betrayal of American values. As for Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who campaigned for torture."

Monday, October 10, 2005

What's made milwaukee Famous

...has given me a headache.

Today, fully intending to go to the gym at Noon and swim, I found myself explaining the vagaries of applying to grad school to a well-intentioned, nice person at whom it would've been hard to growl "Come back at 1!"

So, I did the only rational thing. I went to the bookstore and bought a copy of HST's "The Great Shark Hunt: The Gonzo Papers Volume 1" and went to the campus pub for three White Castle burgers and a quart of Pabst. You know, a little excess in the gonzo tradition.

It was perfect. I was left in peace to swill large gulps of cold, cheap beer, and read about the Kentucky Derby and the impending downfall of Richard Nixon (all the while mentally comparing that era with notes from the present day). Since my drinking has diminished greatly, the beer worked its magic and it took a while before I knew for sure that the sidewalk was really under my feet as I strolled back to the office. Just what I wanted.

The kink came around 2PM when I realized that my trapezius muscles along my upper spine had squeezed and a significant, dull throb was working its way up my neck, over the top of my head and down onto my forehead. Aaaiiieee! I had forgotten to drink enough water before guzzling the beer. I cursed my bad planning and immediately drank much water, but the damage was done.

Now we are nearly at 5PM, the ache has disappeared as long as I don't turn my head. Water and coffee have lowered its volume.

What's the lesson here? Always be prepared! The Coast Guard is, and so should all lunch time beer drinkers be!


Thursday, October 06, 2005

St. Louis Blues

Today on my way back from lunch I came upon a group that once called itself, and might still, The Spirit of '29. They advertise as being available for market collapses, bank failures, dustbowls, and repeals of temperance laws.

They play jazz from the Jazz Age. They were playing a bumptuous cover of "St. Louis Blues." They had a banjo, a bass clarinet, a slide trombone, an e-flat clarinet, and a cornet. The banjo and the bass clarinet thumped and honked melodiously along, while the trombone, e-flat clarinet and the cornet wove themselves around the melody in an oddly happy way for such a blue tune.

Instead of striding back to my office I should've been leaning against a nearby lampost waiting for the train. I'd be as natty as possible in my threadbare pinstripe suit and Arrow shirt, with my grey fedora back on three hairs, and a Lucky Strike hanging from my lower lip. I'd be wondering about a job, thinking about a cold mug of beer, and hoping the Cubs could make a dent against Lefty Gomez in the second game of the 'Series after being shellacked by the Yanks 12-6 in the 1st game.

Ah, but ya' can't have everything, so here I am. As an old friend recently said, "I hate modern life."