Wednesday, October 25, 2006

October 13 - October 24, 2006

Mark today, October 20, 2006, on your calendar. When the history of George W. Bush's Iraq misadventure is written this is the day that will mark the beginning of the end. Today militias loyal to Iranian backed mullah, Muqtada al-Sadr, took over the southern town of Amara. Al-Sadr has been waiting for his Tet moment, and it came today. The fat man has sung. It's over. George W. Bush's vision of “a free and democratic Iraq,” will be replaced by an Iranian style Islamic theocracy.

Funny how things happen. Just yesterday I was cleaning old files off my computer when I came across a column I penned on August 23, 2005 – 14 months and several hundred dead US G.I's ago. This morning that file was still on my screen. For some reason I couldn't bring myself to delete it. So instead I read it again. And lo and behold, I didn't have to change a single word of it.

Here it is again -- because it's where we are now.

It's Boy!

Congratulations George W. Bush, you are the father of a bouncing baby Islamic Republic!

What-ya mean you want a paternity test? Who else could be the father? Saddam was a dictator and despot, but a secular one. He used to have troublesome mullahs whacked. Anyway, you have him locked up. So we know he didn't do it.

No, George, I am afraid you have to take responsibility for fathering the world's newest little mullah. Come on now, don't be ashamed, stuff happens. You thought you were just going in for some heavy petting and, wham ! – the next thing you know you've created a another Islamic brat that's going to blame you for everything that's wrong with the world. Sharper than a serpent's tooth, huh?

Of course you may have a hard time explaining this to your fundamentalist Christian “base” back home here. Lots of us tried to get you to abort this thing before it got to this point, but now it's too late. And you'll have to explain why a few thousand US kids had to die just so Iraqi men can marry girls as young as nine, and then legally beat the crap out of them if they don't toe the radical Islamic line. I have to wonder what your pal, the most reverend Jerry Falwell, will have to say about grown men marrying pre-teen girls?

But there's no escaping it George, it's your doing. Maybe you can make Rev. Jerry feel better if you explain that Muslims also oppose abortion. Now if some Iraqi guy knocks up some little girl, she'll have a playmate in nine months. You can tell Jerry that and see how it floats.

Half the humans on earth are women. But in your new Islamic Republic, George, half of all Iraqis will be less equal than the other half. Women will have to cover up or risk being beaten by misogynistic thugs masquerading as "religious police." Whatya gonna say when TV footage of that reaches Red State women voters -- they were asking for it dressing like that?

Maybe you should ask those women who camp outside your Texas ranch every August about all this. After all, their kids died helping deliver your new baby. You might first notice that none of those women are wearing burquas. It's hot in both Iraq and Crawford. But at least in Crawford women can wear shorts. Not so soon in your new Iraq where, despite temperatures over 100 degrees, women will be pressured to cover up in heat-absorbing black, head to toe – and not because black is slimming, either. As they sweat and look out at the world through eye-slits, they will have you to blame for that .... daddy.

You may also start thinking about how you are going to break some bad news to those in your administration hawking traditional marriage. They may be surprised to discover that under Islamic law, when a guy is done with a wife, all he has to do is say, "I divorce you," three times in a row, and she's out. Talk about quickie divorces! Eat your heart out, Nevada.

How about alimony? Forget about it. Women have no community property rights under Islamic law, not even the right to the children they bear during a marriage. But you may find some allies for this in Utah because Muslim men can have more than one wife – at the same time! (I wonder how your pal, Tony Perkins, of the Family Researach Council, will feel about that? Your evangelical base likes to chant that marriage means, "One man married to one woman." is a marriage. Yikes! Maybe you can soothe your born-again eligious base by reminding them that homosexuality is a capital crime under Islamic law. (Talk about don't ask don't tell!)

Oh George, George, George -- we tried to tell you to pull out early, but oh no, you just had to go all the way. Now you've done it – created a bad seed of a kid that's destined to grow up to become an ally of that militant Iranian gang next door.

It's too late to do anything about this now, George. But don't be too hard on yourself. You're not the first father to have a kid go sideways on him. Jeffrey Dahmer, Charlie Mason, Ted Bundy, O.J. Simpson, Adolf Hitler, Richard Nixon, all had daddies.

All you can do now is spend the rest of your life trying to convince history that you gave the kid every opportunity to straighten up and fly right, but he still went bad on you anyway. Of course, it won't work. History is cruel that way. There are no spin doctors in history books. Just facts.

You're under arrest
For what?
None of your business

As of yesterday we, all of us, are just one indiscretion, misunderstanding or set up away from disappearing.

Maybe that neighbor you pissed off a couple of years ago will be the reason. Or a phone call to an old buddy during which you vented your frustrations with the president. It could be an email someone sent you that you liked and forwarded to someone else.

But the reason you end up in federal custody, refused a lawyer, or a trial, may never be known, to you or anyone else.

“Get outta here, Pizzo. I'm a US citizen. That kind of stuff only happens to foreign terrorists.”

No. You get outta here. As of yesterday it can happen, and it can happen to YOU.

Here's the full text of the law President Bush signed yesterday. Read it yourself. Senator Chris Dodd did and concludes that,

"Anybody deemed by the president to be an enemy combatant or alleged enemy combatant can be arrested and held indefinitely," he said. "That's incredible. Today, an American president signed that bill into law. What a sad day for our country."

So, be warned. Today would be a good day to reconsider almost everything you think you know about what it means to be an American citizen. In fact, as of yesterday, common criminals... murderers, thieves, rapists, even child molesters, now have more legal protections than any American accused by the government of “providing material aid to terrorists.”

For example, if someone is accused of murdering their entire family, burning down their house and raping the family pets, they still have the right to:

* One phone call
* To refuse to answer questions without a lawyer present
* The right to a preliminary hearing forcing prosecutors to prove they have a case
* The right to Habeas Corpus
* The right to examine and refute the evidence against them -- all the evidence.
* The right cross examine your accusers - all accusers.

But, should the US government accuse you of "providing material aid to terrorists:"

* You have NO right to phone anyone – maybe ever again
* You have NO right to any kind of evidential hearing
* You have NO right to Habeas Corpus
* You have NO right to see the evidence against you
* You have NO right to confront, or even know the identity of, witnesses against you
* You haver NO right to a jury of your peers.
* And you can be subjected to extreme interrogation techniques the government says do not constitute torture, but refuse to describe.

Think I'm kidding? Nope. Even I'm not that sick. This is no joke. I wish it were. No this one is the real deal folks. And since it's now the law of the land, you better get rid of your pre-10/17/2006 thinking. It's a new day and a new way in Bush's America.

Piss off someone in government and you could find yourself in front of precisely the kind of military tribunals the US once condemned in other countries. Here are some of the “highlights” of the new law.

Who can be accused of being an “Unlawful Enemy Combatant?” Anyone they decide. And oh, by the way, it's retroactive (ex post facto) to boot.

“Determination of Unlawful Enemy Combatant Status Dispositive- A finding, whether before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense that a person is an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission under this chapter.

And forget sentencing guidelines. Under this law your punishment can be affected by whether Don Rumsfeld is in a good mood that day or a bad mood.

“Punishments- A military commission under this chapter may, under such limitations as the Secretary of Defense may prescribe, adjudge any punishment not forbidden by this chapter, including the penalty of death when authorized under this chapter or the law of war.

And just who can convene a Military Tribunal under this new law?

“Military commissions under this chapter may be convened by the Secretary of Defense or by any officer or official of the United States designated by the Secretary for that purpose.

Who will judge you?

“In General- Any commissioned officer of the armed forces on active duty is eligible to serve on a military commission under this chapter.”

Once seated a Military Tribunal assumes a status once reserved only for the Pope: infallibility.

“ No authority convening a military commission under this chapter may censure, reprimand, or admonish the military commission, or any member, military judge, or counsel thereof, with respect to the findings or sentence adjudged by the military commission, or with respect to any other exercises of its or his functions in the conduct of the proceedings.”

Well, at least we can watch the proceedings, right? Forget about it.

“The military judge may close to the public all or a portion of the proceedings under paragraph (1) only upon making a specific finding that such closure is necessary...”

There's nothing in the new law that requires a speedy trial. So after months, or even years, of cooling your heels in solitary you may finally be led before a tribunal for your day in court. Will you find out now why you're under arrest. Maybe not.

NATIONAL SECURITY PRIVILEGE- (A) Classified information shall be protected and is privileged from disclosure if disclosure would be detrimental to the national security. The rule in the preceding sentence applies to all stages of the proceedings of military commissions under this chapter..... The privilege referred may be claimed by the head of the executive or military department or government agency concerned based on a finding by the head of that department or agency...”

And just who can claim the evidence against you is “privileged?”

“A person who may claim the privilege referred to in subparagraph (A) may authorize a representative, witness, or trial counsel to claim the privilege and make the finding described in subparagraph (B) on behalf of such person. “

In other words, anyone on the prosecution side of the case, including their witnesses against you, can declare that the evidence they have against you is privileged and therefore can be kept from you and your attorney.

K. broke off here and looked at the judge, who said nothing. As he did so he thought he saw the judge use a movement of his eyes to give a sign to someone in the crowd. K. smiled and said, "And now the judge is giving a secret sign to someone among you. There seems to be someone among you who is taking directions from above. I don't know whether the sign is meant to produce booing or applause, but I'll resist trying to guess what its meaning is too soon. It really doesn't matter to me, and I give his lordship the judge my full and public permission to stop giving secret signs to his paid subordinate down there and give his orders in words instead; let him just say "Boo now!," and then the next time "Clap now!". (Franz Kafka, The Trial.)

If there is anything more extraordinary than the law Bush signed yesterday it was the lack of commotion about it. It would seem American's, who once warned authorities “Don't tread on me,” are now resigned to a Kafkaesque future.

So, from today on, until and if a future congress and president repeals this assualt on “equal justice for all,” you all better watch your step -- and your mouth.

Brother, Sister...
Where Art Thou?

Hello. My name is __________________________. I am the Democratic Party's nominee for President of the United States of America, and I approved this message.

A growing majority of Americans feel the nation is on the wrong course in both it's domestic and foreign policies and actions. I would like to take just a moment of your time to tell you how, if elected, I would lead my party and our nation back onto the righteous, just and enlightened path that made America great and respected at home and abroad.

1) I would give the Iraqi government 180 days of additional US military assistance before I begin redeploying US troops out of that country. National Guard troops would be the first troops to leave Iraq, returning them to the states and communities they are supposed to serve. The balance of American troops will be redeployed to neighboring countries to provide security for those countries in the event Iraq descends into chaos.

2) I will provide Congress a plan for balancing the federal budget within 24 months of my election. This plan will require both spending cuts and tax increases. Tax increases would be aimed at the very top 2% of earners and will have no impact whatsoever on individuals making up to $40,000 a year or couples that earn less than $80,000 a year. (More)

3) I will provide Congress a plan for providing affordable health care coverage for every American citizen. My plan will sweep away the current inefficient and expensive maze of private health plans and replace it with a single payer insurance plan. This plan will blend the strengths of the private sector with the cost savings and bargaining power that can only be attained by a single heath insurance provider. Medicare and Medicaid will be slowly phased under this plan assuring adequate funding and converage for the poor and retirees into perpetuity. This national health plan will be run by the private sector but regulated by a federal agency - much the same way banks and the security industry's have been run for nearly a century. (More)

4) I will immediately reopen talks on the Kyoto Treaty, asking all participating nations to consider updating that treaty to expand it's limits on greenhouse gas emissions to all nations, including China and developing countries. I would commit the US to signing a Kyoto treaty and agressively implementing its provisions once so amended. (More)

5) I would ask Congress to rescend any authority it previously gave the executive branch that allows US troops or intelligence agents to employ dehumanizing, degrading or cruel interrogation techniques. I would also ask Congress to clearly establish that any person(s) captured in what has been come to be referred to as “the war on terror,” shall be considered a prisoner of war, as defined in the Geneva Convention and other international laws of which the US is a signatory. (More)

6) I would ask that Congress explicitedly outlaw military tribunals except for when there has been a formal Congressional declaration of war, as provided for in the US Constitution. (More)

7) I would ask Congress to update US immigration laws and enforcement. Key to these changes would be to, within one year, make sure that employers, large and small, have fast and accurate online access to information already on file with the US govenment that can confirm a employee's citizenship or immigration status. Once that service is in place I would then make sure INS and ICE agents are deployed in sufficient numbers to enforce workplace compliance. American workers and foriegn guest workers in the country legally, deserve nothing less.

8) I would ask Congress to raise the national minimum wage to $10 an hour and index further increase to inflation. (More)

9) I would ask Congress to pass legislation to double minimum millage standards for all cars and trucks by 100% in 10% increments over the next ten years. (More)

10) I would ask Congress to create a Manhattan Project for Energy Independence and fund it fully with the goal of discovering, developing and deploying energy solutions that would free the US from dependency on oil-based fuels by no later than 2020. (More)

11) Our democracy has been purchased by special interests. A democracy that can be bought is a democracy in peril. Therefore I will ask Congress to pass a constitutional amendment requiring that all campaigns for Congress and the White House be funded solely from public funds. (More)

12) My defense policies will reflect that we are the most technologically advanced nation on earth, and should therefore play to that strength. Sending troops halfway around the world made sense in the days before we had the ability to drop a cruise missile within 36 inches of any object or person on earth, but it makes no sense today. (And, as we have seen in Iraq, troops on the ground are no guarantee of victory anyway.) Therefore I believe the US needs to make it clear to our would-be adversaries precisely what kinds of behavior towards us is acceptable and unacceptable. Our goals should not be so much to "win" wars, but to modify behavior. So I will let those who would confront the US know where the red lines are. After that it would be up to them to decide if they want American products and technology delivered to them by Dell and WalMart or Lockheed/Martin. (More)

13) I will never employ signing statements. If I disagree with all or portions of a bill Congress puts on my desk to sign, I will veto that bill. It will then be up to Congress, as dictated in the US Constitution, to either override my veto, or revise the bill and send it back to me. I will also ask the US Solicitor to seek a definitive ruling from the US Supreme Court on the legality of Presidential signing statements so that no future president will ever again attempt such an egregious end run around Legislative Branch constitutional authority. Should the Supreme Court rule otherwise, I will ask Congress for a constitutional amendment explicitly banning presidential signing statements. (More)

14) I will ask Congress to pass legislation imposing a five year limit on the Patriot Act. This will allow future congresses to reconsider that act and adjust it's provisions to reflect both actual future threats and to adjust this controversial law to reflect future court rulings.

15) I will restate the American traditions that, for two centuries, considered it anathema the notion the US government should or could eavesdrop or spy on US citizens without a court order. And, restate clearly and unequivocally, that anyone accused of wrong doing by local, state or federal authorities has the right to a fair and open trial and the right to confront all the evidence and witnesses against them, and possess the inalienable right to Habeas Corpus. Anything less turns the concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” on it head, by forcing the accused to prove that they are innocent before their rights are returned to them.

That's my program. If you like it, vote for me and I give you my word I will work night and day to see each of those promises are kept and turned into US law and policy before my first term in office is over.

If you don't like those policies then don't vote for me. Instead vote Republican and guarantee at least four more years of what you've been getting.

It really is as simple as that.

Thank you.

Candidate for President of the United States of America

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Keep this and fill in the candidate's name when (if) one ever gives this speech.)

Why Republicans Should
Vote Democrat in November

We are less than a month away from what is arguably be the most important mid-term election in half a century. Voters will be faced with a tough choice. Should they continue letting Republicans control both houses of Congress, or put Democrats in charge of one or both?

Republicans have controlled both the executive and legislative branches of government for six years. So, there's little mystery in what they believe and what policies they support:

Taxes: GOP tax cuts benefit Americans in direct proportion to how much they earn. The more you earn, the more the GOP's tax cuts benefit them. The less they earn, the less they get out of them. Republicans argue that's just the way it should be, that it's unfair to ding the rich for a disproportionate share of the nation's upkeep. And – though they won't say so right out loud – Republicans believe -- but would never admit it) that, since the poor contribute less to society, they should get less from society.

The Bush administration and Congress have scaled back programs that aid the poor to help pay for $600 billion in tax breaks that went primarily to those who earn more than $288,800 a year....To offset the loss of the tax revenue, the administration has amassed record federal deficits and trimmed social spending....The affected programs — job training, housing, higher education and an array of social services — provide safety nets for the poor. Many programs are critical elements in welfare-to-work initiatives and were already badly underfunded. (More)
Foreign Policy: The GOP reduced American foreign policy to a simple, in-your-face, formula: “It's our way, or the highway.” Nice, if they could get away with it. The trouble is they can't, and they didn't. Our traditional allies around the world were offended. (Duh) And, while they not as strong as we are, they have retaliated by going passive aggressive on us when we turned to them for help when “the highway,” turned out longer and rougher than US smartypants Neocons figured.

WASHINGTON - The national security adviser under the first President Bush says the current president acted contemptuously toward NATO and Europe after Sept. 11 and is trying to cooperate now out of desperation to "rescue a failing venture" in Iraq and Afghanistan. (More)

Science: If they agree with scientific studies, they embrace them. If they don't agree, or their big-business contributors don't like the findings, they dismiss and/or suppress such findings. Like Big Tobacco before them, the GOP fights back with their own “science,” which, remarkably, produces results that support the political/social/religious beliefs of their conservative base. Global warming, the Morning After pill, stem cell research, evolution – all highly suspect as far as the GOP base – and their science-for-hire researchers -- are concerned. (If the Vatican had hired it's own astronomers rather than just jailing Galileo, we might still be teaching that the sun and all the planets orbit the earth.)

What sort of pluperfect arrogance prompts a scientifically illiterate MBA to reject the considered conclusions of 2000 world-class scientists, and then, to arrange the ouster of the scientist in charge of the intergovernmental panel that came to those conclusions?...Be advised, my fellow Americans, that this very arrogance resides in the Chief Executive of our Republic – or perhaps more correctly, among those who sponsor and "advise" that Chief Executive....But you knew that already, didn't you? To be sure, George Bush's indifference to informed scientific opinion is no secret. However, the extent of this indifference is not fully appreciated, even less the serious implications thereof. (More)

Iraq: Need I say more?

Human Rights: Republicans believe that human rights are conditional. They believe that some humans can, under certain circumstances, be mistreated in the name of national security. They reject the term “torture,” preferring the Orwellian, “Aggressive Interrogation Techniques.” And, they claim to be completely comfortable that these techniques are not cruel or a violation of international human rights – though they are apparently not comfortable enough with the techniques they authorized to describe them.

"Can’t the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness? Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America?"

- Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean-American writer, professor at Duke University, author of "Death and The Maiden"

On the other hand voters have the Democrats. While we are now painfully aware of what the Republicans stand for, we have no idea what Democrats have up their sleeves. We don't know how they plan on getting us out of Iraq without making things worse. We don't know how, or even if, they would roll back the Bush tax cuts. We don't know if they would buck the US Chamber of Commerce and raise the minimum wage to a livable wage and index it to inflation. We don't know if they would seriously tackle our energy problems, by slapping down automakers, doubling CAFE standards over the next decade, and funding a Manhattan Project for energy independence, whose goal would be to have us entirely off oil by 2020.

I have no doubt such a platform would sweep Democrats to victory in this time and sweep them into the White House in 2008. But don't hold your breath. Democrats are notorious scardycats. Rather than risk taking a straight line position on a hot issue, they hedge their – which they call “triangulating.” By the time they fine-tune their position enough to touch all those bases there's very little there in it any longer.

Democrats have been AWOL from the fight for right for a decade now. We miss them. American workers have suffered, the poor have suffered, our national defense has suffered, our fiscal health has never been worse. At least “tax and spend Democrats,” understood you had to “tax” before you spent. Clinton understood that, raised taxes on those who benefited most from society and balanced the budget. Republicans did just the opposite and have left us, your kids and their kids saddled with biggest credit card bill in the history of mankind.

So what are voters to do on November 7?

Vote Democrat. Why?

Because voting Republican sends a message. It means saying okay to tax cuts that have benefited the wrong people. It means two more years of inaction on greenhouse gas emissions. It means no real pressure on automakers to more quickly switch to cleaner technologies. It means more international isolation. It means critical policies being decided and driven by junk science. It means fewer reproductive rights for women. It means further erosion of constitutional rights, more right-wing judges on the federal bench.. and.. well, you get the point. As the old saying goes, “Keep doin' what you been doin' and you'll keep getting' what you got.”

One more thing. I know a lot of people who voted for Bush are now having second thoughts. They don't like Democrats and have never voted for one of those critters. But they also don't like that Republicans have doubled our federal debt.. increasing it by $4 trillion in just six years. And while they may have supported Bush's invasion of Iraq, but are appalled by his incompetence that have gotten so many people killed for what is increasingly looking like nothing.

So reach out to the Republicans in your family and circle of friends. Encourage them to do something they never dreamed they would do... vote straight Democrat on November 7.

When they balk, and most will, explain that they are not voting for Democrats, but for the restoration of American democracy. Explain to them them that if Democrats get the House and/or the Senate genuine oversight of the executive branch will return to the legislative branch. The GOP Congress has avoided genuine oversight like the plague, giving the executive branch far more power than our founders intended. Simply put an unsupervised executive branch is un-American. I don't know exactly how to describe American governance over the last six years of GOP rule. It would be hysterical to call it a dictatorship. Maybe it's been more a kind of monarchy.

Whatever it's been, it sure as hell hasn't been a representative democracy.

Which is why even Republicans should vote Democrat this November. Even those who, after all this, still believe in President Bush's policies are just and right and defendable, then they should not be afraid to subject them to Democracy's crucible – congressional debate and oversight - genuine debate and oversight.

Also tell them that you agree with them about the empty suits calling themselves Democrats. And how potentially entertaining it could be to give two years during which they can't just talk, but have to either shit or get off the pot. Hey, I'd like to watch that show myself.

October 12, 2006

America the Frivolous

I hate it when that happens. There I was. It was 6 a.m. I was settling into my Barko lounger cradling that precious first cup of coffee of the day – cream, one sugar. I grabbed the remote and click the TV on and, while it warmed up, switched to CNN. As I brought cup to lip CNN's chattering weatherman, “Chad,” chattering in front of a large object covered with a blanket of some sort. Chad was beside himself. I had not seen him this excited since he lost it on the air during Katrina.

Anyway as I took my first sip of coffee Chad had the blanket removed to reveal what it was that had him so wound up. It was ..... ta.da.....

“Warrior One,” the Humvee CNN reporters had used to cover the invasion of Iraq. A California outfit called “Overhaulin,” had given “Warrior One,” a new paint job... No wait.. not just any paint job, no siree. This was one of those fancy airbrush artsy-fartsy custom jobs you see on those one-off custom Harley's. Atop a shinny new undercoat were added images of little army tanks a-tankin', little fighter jets a-jettin', tiny troops a-troopin' and CNN reporters reportin'.

Since Warrior One was about a close to combat as “Chad” had ever been the experience overwhelmed him. Microphone in hand he rushed around Warrior One gushing over each little airbrushed image of war. He was especially thrilled by the large logo emblazoned on each side announcing that this was indeed, “CNN - WARRIOR ONE.”

Monday, October 09, 2006

CNN Hummer Overhauled

Source: CNN Press Release: One of the Hummer off-road vehicles CNN employed during the war in Iraq returns to Atlanta after a major renovation project as part of The Learning Channel’s highly rated series, Overhaulin’.

Overhaulin’ co-hosts Chris Jacobs and Adrienne “A.J.” Janic and hot rod designer Chip Foose will present the refurbished Hummer – nicknamed “Warrior One” – to CNN employees on Thursday, Oct. 12, at 8:30 a.m. (ET) in front of the CNN sign on Centennial Park Drive. The Overhaulin’ program featuring the Hummer will premiere on TLC on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).

After the unveiling, Warrior One will tour military bases and other sites across the country before it is auctioned. Proceeds of the auction will be donated to a charity to be determined later.
CNN purchased the Hummer in 2002 from the King Hummer dealership in Kuwait . Network producers, video journalists and correspondents used the vehicle when they were embedded with coalition forces in the war in Iraq in 2003.

This summer, Overhaulin’ took the Hummer to the show’s workshop in Irvine, Calif. Crews overhauled the Hummer’s engine and body and installed an extensive entertainment system that includes a DVD player, four LCD monitors and a state-of-the-art sound system. Airbrush artists Dru Blaier, Mickey Harris and Mike Lavallee painted images of journalists and military men and women onto the vehicle as a tribute to those who served during the war in Iraq or covered the war.

I was dumbstruck. That first precious sip of coffee just dribbled down the front of my shirt. It was new low, even by CNN standards.

What the hell were they thinking? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know... it's a Learning Channel promotion. And the thing will be auctioned off for charity. But here it was on my TV, on CNN, being hawked and fawned over. Here was CNN, just a day after they reporting that researchers estimated since George W. liberated them, as many as 650,000 could have been killed.

Okay, so that number is suspect. I agree. There have been several lower estimates. George W. (Rainman) Bush contends it's “only” 36,000, “or so.” Others say 55,000, maybe 100,000. The truth is certainly somewhere between those numbers. But whatever the precise number, it's appalling.

So why was CNN participating in the memorializing of it's reporting on that ongoing slaughter with a tricked out Humvee?

CNN might argue that its reporters risked their lives covering the action over thee, so they have a right to glow in the reflection of their bravery.

Nonsense. I was a reporter and, let me tell you a dirty little secret -- reporters do what they do because they love it... every stinking second of it. And the gritter it gets, the more they love it. Reporters live a privileged lives. We get to actual experience up close the kind of stuff ordinary folks only see at the movies; crime, romance, glamor, glory, gore, war, the thrill of victory and agony of defeat. We love it all, because reporters are the biggest drama queens on earth.

And sure, sometimes reporters get hurt and even killed doing what they do. So do truck drivers, construction workers and farmers.

As for the corporate end of CNN/Time Warner, we know what they do during war -- they sell commercials between reports from the front. Duh.

CNN's “Warrior One,” really got me going... as you can tell. For me it represented, more than anything I've seen so far, just how frivolous America and Americans have become. We are simply no longer a serious people. We've become a spoiled, self-indulgent, self-congratulatory, self-conscious, frivolous and needy lot.

Partly that's the fault of our mass media. Because they've taken it upon themselves to airbrush reality from it. The mainstream media softens hard news from the front before it reaches us, so as not to spoil our dinners. We get to see cars and trucks laying in pieces on Baghdad streets after a roadside bomb goes off. But to look at American TV news reports from Iraq one would think it was war of the machines.There they are, the gearboxes, fenders, burning tires, dismembered chasis. But no dismembered occupants, or dismembered bystanders. Because our media's self-censors understand we we don't want to see that kind of stuff, especially at dinner time. It's hard to enjoy a medium-rare T-bone when confronted with a picture of ten pounds of raw flesh that, just minutes before, had been up and walking around.

Real reality can be, well, real upsetting. So American media kindly takes the edges off it for us.

Then we are left to wonder why so many of our young men and women come back from Iraq all screwed up; sad, angry, disturbed, changed -- forever.

But we brush that aside as well. After all, we have the VA to take care of them. We know that because CNN tells us so, generally in a reassuring way.

But what's really important is that you know CNN reporters covered the war in Iraq, and they covered it in Warrior One. CNN brought the war right into your living rooms and dinning rooms, every night, every morning, everyday. And, they even cleaned it up for you. (No humans were actually hurt during the making of this report.)

Hurricanes and earthquakes are okay. But war.. whoooah! Now you're talkin'. War is pure, unadulterated cable news nirvana.

And CNN was there baby, there in Warrior One. And Chad couldn't be prouder.

I don't know if any CNN reporters killed in Iraq. But I do know nearly 3000 US soldiers have died there so far and 45,000, “or so” have been wounded.

Meanwhile, Iraqi bodies pile up by the thousands each month, every month, month in, month out, year in and year out. Has it been 36,000, 55,000, 100,000 or 650,000? Who knows? Too many, that's for sure.

Maybe CNN can hire Overhaulin' to airbrush something cool on some coffins for them.

It's all so sad.

October 11, 2006

Burqa Babes Gone Wild

Have you been following the latest The West v. Islam flap? Last week British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, suggested that if Muslim women who have chosen to live in Europe wanted to lessen tensions they should consider getting rid of the full-body burqa, which westerners see as not only strange but demeaning and oppressive towards women.

Well, of course all hell broke loose as Muslims in Europe and around the world condemned Straw for being a bigot and anti-Islam, and worse. But Straw was right, and who would better know just how right than fatwa-beleaguered author, Salman Rushdie, who came out foursquare in support of Straw's remarks:


LONDON: Writer SALMAN RUSHDIE has reignited the row over Muslim dress codes, insisting the veils worn by Islamic women "suck". Rushdie made the inflammatory comment after former British foreign secretary JACK STRAW sparked a scandal by asking Muslim women in the UK to remove their veils in order to integrate into Western society.

THE SATANIC VERSES author, who became the subject of a death edict issued by Iran's revolutionary leader AYATOLLAH RUHOLLAH KHOMEINI in 1989, backed Straw for raising the issue.

He says, "The battle against the veil has been a long and continuing battle against the limitation of women, so in that sense I'm completely on Straw's side. "He was expressing an important opinion, which is that veils suck - which they do."

Here's the deal. When Western women visit Muslim countries they wouldn't dream of walking down the street in a see-through blouse or a bikini. And if they did, they'd deserve what ever misery came their way. When female western journalists cover stories in Iran or Saudi Arabia they don't wear a burqa, but they do go out of their way to show respect for local sensitivities and customs by wearing a stylish head scarf.

That's really all Jack Straw was suggesting. Muslim women living in Europe don't need to dress like little tarts to get by. No one is suggesting that. But they also should not show up dressed like they're out tricker-treating and expect no one to take notice – or offense.

Nor should they expect to be treated like everyone else on the street in times like these. Here's someone clearly from a Muslim country walking around a western city in a full body disguise. Gee, no reason for worry there, huh? (Are those male eyeballs or female eyeballs? Only her – his - hairdresser knows for sure.)

Here's a handy tip for Muslim women planning a trip to the West: Westerners don't like talking to a set of disembodied eyeballs. Westerners like face time – preferably a whole face -- when they have to interact with another person, be it a man or a woman. Having to talk to a woman through, what amounts to mail slot, is a formula for inter-cultural friction.

I also understand that the burqa is supposed to be all about feminine modesty. Fine. I have no problem with that. But if a Muslim woman is so modest that she can't even show her face in public, the moving to the West is a bit like a born again Christian deciding to take a room in a brothel. Not a good idea.

Listen, I'm no xenophobic. I love cultural diversity. Hell, in my pre-teen years National Geographic Magazine was my reading material of choice – but I diverge.

The point I would like to make – and that Straw was trying to make as well – is that, as quaint and beloved as they may be back in the old country, there are some cultural habits that simply don't translate. Bikinis in Tehran – don't translate. Martinis in Damascus – don't translate. Pickled pigs' feet in Tel Aviv – don't translate. A beef slaughterhouse in New Delhi – forget about it.

And women dressed like the brides of Zorro roaming the streets of London – don't translate.