Friday, June 06, 2008
"If you don't watch the Violence, You'll never become desensitized to it."
REPORT: LOVE LETTERS FROM U.S. TROOPS INCREASINGLY GRUESOME.
from The Onion: America's Finest News Source
WASHINGTON—According to a Pentagon report leaked to the press Monday, love letters written by U.S. troops have nearly tripled in their use of disturbing language, graphic imagery, and horrific themes since the start of the war.
The report, which studied 600 romantic notes sent over a period of two years, found a significant increase in terrifying descriptions of violence and gore, while references to beautiful flowers, singing bluebirds, and the infinite, undulating sea were seen to decrease by 93 percent.
An April 28 letter from Sgt. David Howard to his wife, Monica.
"Not only are U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq less likely to compare their lover's cheeks to a blushing red rose," the report read in part, "but most are now three times more likely to equate that same burning desire to the 'smoldering flesh of a dead Iraqi insurgent,' and almost 10 times more likely to compare sudden bursts of passion to a 'crowded marketplace explosion.'"
According to detailed analysis of the letters, the longer a U.S. soldier had been stationed in Iraq the more macabre the overall tone of his correspondence became. Troops who had been fighting for less than a year lapsed into frightening allegory only 15 percent of the time, while those who had been serving between two and three years described their affection for loved ones back home as more vibrant and alive than any of the children in the village of Basra.
Troops stationed in Iraq for four years or longer composed their letters entirely in blood.
"The more often U.S. soldiers are confronted with images of carnage, the more these elements become present in their subconscious and, ultimately, in their writing," said Dr. Kendra Allen, a behavioral psychologist who reviewed the Pentagon's findings. "This is precisely why we see so many passages like, 'Darling, I miss the way your bright green eyes always stayed inside your skull' and 'Honey, how I dream of your soft, supple arms—both of them, still attached as ever, to the rest of your body.'"
Allen went on to say that many of the harrowing details found in the love letters were linked to specific events in Iraq. A bloody clash with Islamic extremists in late March resulted in more than 40 handwritten notes from a single battalion, all of which contained some version of the message "My love for you spills out of me like my lower intestine, my gallbladder, and my spleen."
The most noticeable change came after a violent border skirmish in May that left four U.S. soldiers dead and dozens more severely injured. Since the incident, a number of letters, which had previously signed off with "Yours forever," instead ended with "Please God, deliver me from this nightmarish hellhole! The screaming—it never stops! Christ, I beg you, make it all go away! Make the parade of blood and pain and tears go away!"
A number of wives and fiancées of servicemen in Iraq, many of whom are now unsure how to reply to their partners abroad, provided personal accounts of how the tone of their correspondence has changed.
"Getting love letters from my husband used to be my favorite part of the week. But these days, they're almost impossible to get through," said Sheila Miller, whose husband, Michael, has been in Iraq since 2004. "Yes, it's still flattering to be told that you're as beautiful as a syringe full of morphine, or that you're as much a part of his being as the shrapnel near his spine. But I'm really starting to worry about him."
"My husband has never really been the romantic type, but even this is strange for him," said Margaret Baker, the wife of Sgt. Daniel Baker. "How am I supposed to react to hearing that my name is the sweetest sound in a world otherwise filled with desperate cries of anguish? I made the mistake of showing [daughter] Gracie the birthday card her father sent her from Tikrit and she hasn't spoken for a month."
In response to the damaging report, Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke on behalf of the thousands of soldiers on active duty in the Middle East, saying the study's findings were "misrepresented" and any rise in horrific metaphors and similes was in no way related to the situation in Iraq.
"I've been to our bases overseas and let me be the first to tell you that conditions in Iraq are the best they've ever been," Gates announced at a press conference Friday. "In fact, I would go so far as to say that we're making as much progress here as, say, an army private who accidentally falls on a land mine, and instead of choosing to die in the middle of the road like some dog, drags his bleeding trunk—inch by throbbing inch—to the side of a nearby ditch."
Added Gates, "It's that good."
Adviser Says McCain Backs Bush Wiretaps
WASHINGTON — A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.
In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance.
Mr. McCain believes that “neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the A.C.L.U. and trial lawyers, understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin wrote.
And if Mr. McCain is elected president, Mr. Holtz-Eakin added, he would do everything he could to prevent terrorist attacks, “including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.”
Although a spokesman for Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, denied that the senator’s views on surveillance and executive power had shifted, legal specialists said the letter contrasted with statements Mr. McCain previously made about the limits of presidential power.
In an interview about his views on the limits of executive power with The Boston Globe six months ago, Mr. McCain strongly suggested that if he became the next commander in chief, he would consider himself obligated to obey a statute restricting what he did in national security matters.
Mr. McCain was asked whether he believed that the president had constitutional power to conduct surveillance on American soil for national security purposes without a warrant, regardless of federal statutes.
He replied: “There are some areas where the statutes don’t apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is.”
Following up, the interviewer asked whether Mr. McCain was saying a statute trumped a president’s powers as commander in chief when it came to a surveillance law. “I don’t think the president has the right to disobey any law,” Mr. McCain replied.
David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said that while the language used by Mr. McCain in his answers six months ago was imprecise, the recent statement by Mr. Holtz-Eakin “seems to contradict precisely what he said earlier.”
Mr. McCain’s position, as outlined by Mr. Holtz-Eakin, was criticized by the campaign of his presumptive Democratic opponent in the presidential election, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. Greg Craig, an Obama campaign adviser, said Wednesday that anyone reading Mr. McCain’s answers to The Globe and the more recent statement would be “totally confused” about “what Senator McCain thinks about what the Constitution means and what President Bush did.”
“American voters deserve to know which side of this flip-flop he’s on today, and what he would do as president,” Mr. Craig said in a phone interview.
Tucker Bounds, a McCain campaign spokesman, said Mr. McCain’s position on surveillance laws and executive power “has not changed.”
“John McCain has been an unequivocal advocate of pursuing the radicals and extremists who seek to attack Americans,” Mr. Bounds wrote in an e-mail message, adding that Mr. McCain’s “votes and positions have been completely consistent and any suggestion otherwise is a distortion of his clear record.”
Asked whether the views Mr. Holtz-Eakin imputed to Mr. McCain were inaccurate, Mr. Bounds did not repudiate the statement. But late Thursday Mr. Bounds called and said, “to the extent that the comments of members of our staff are misinterpreted, they shouldn’t be read into as anything otherwise.”
Neither Mr. McCain nor Mr. Holtz-Eakin, a former head of the Congressional Budget Office who primarily advises the campaign on economic issues, was available for comment, Mr. Bounds said.
Mr. McCain has long distanced himself from the Bush administration on legal issues involving detention and interrogation in the fight against terrorism, an approach that has sometimes aroused suspicion among conservative supporters of the Bush administration.
But more recently, as Mr. McCain has worked to consolidate his party’s base, he has taken several positions that have won him praise from his former critics while drawing fire from Democrats.
In February, for example, Mr. McCain voted against limiting the Central Intelligence Agency to the techniques approved in the Army Field Manual on Interrogation, which complies with the Geneva Conventions. Mr. McCain said the C.I.A. needed the flexibility to use other techniques so long as it did not abuse detainees.
He also voted for legislation that would free telecommunications companies from lawsuits alleging that they illegally allowed the N.S.A. to eavesdrop on their customers’ phone calls and e-mail without a warrant. The legislation would also essentially legalize a form of surveillance without warrants going forward.
But Mr. McCain had previously stopped short of endorsing the view that Mr. Bush’s program of surveillance without warrants was lawful all along because a president’s wartime powers can trump statutory limits.
Andrew C. McCarthy, a National Review columnist who has defended the administration’s legal theories, wrote that Mr. Holtz-Eakin’s statement “implicitly shows Senator McCain’s thinking has changed as time has gone on and he has educated himself on this issue.”
And Glenn Greenwald, a Salon columnist and critic of the Bush administration’s legal claims, wrote that the statement was a “complete reversal” by Mr. McCain, accusing the candidate of seeking “to shore up the support of right-wing extremists.”
The reaction to Mr. Holtz-Eakin’s statement is the latest link in a chain of disputes over Mr. McCain’s positions on surveillance over the past two weeks.
On May 23, the McCain campaign sent a volunteer lawyer, Chuck Fish, to be the candidate’s surrogate at a conference on computer policy. Mr. Fish spoke at a panel discussion on whether phone and Internet companies should be granted immunity from lawsuits for having helped Mr. Bush’s surveillance program.
Mr. Fish suggested that Mr. McCain wanted to impose conditions — like Congressional hearings — that would ensure that such “forgiveness” would not signal that the telecoms should feel free to disregard communications privacy laws in the future if a president tells them to.
After Wired magazine wrote about Mr. Fish’s remarks on its blog, raising the question of whether Mr. McCain’s position had become more skeptical about immunity, the McCain campaign put out a statement saying that Mr. Fish was mistaken. Mr. McCain supported ending the lawsuits without conditions and his position had not changed, the campaign said.
On May 29, The Washington Post quoted Mr. Holtz-Eakin as saying that Mr. McCain did not want the telecoms “put into this position again” and that “there must be clear guidelines for their participation and sufficient vetting” in any future situation.
Mr. Holtz-Eakin’s comments in turn drew fire from Mr. McCarthy. In a blog posting on the National Review Web site, he demanded to know whether Mr. McCain believes the Constitution authorizes a president to lawfully go “arguably beyond what is prescribed in a statute” during a national security crisis.
Mr. Holtz-Eakin laid out Mr. McCain’s position on the president’s claimed constitutional powers to bypass surveillance laws in a letter to Mr. McCarthy, who this week called the statement “extremely significant” and said it “marks a welcome evolution on the senator’s thinking about executive power.”
Both Greenwald and Ryan Singel have important posts on McCain and FISA. He's been back and forth all over the issue since it's become an issue, but now that he's running for Bush's third term, he's decided he'd better go all in, not only on warrantless wiretapping, but on the theory of a unitary executive to back it up.
But let's just take a little walk back in time, to November, 2007 when McCain told CNET news:
When companies provide private records of Americans to the government without proper legal subpoena, warrants, or other legal orders, their heart may be in the right place, but their actions undermine our respect for the law....
If retroactive immunity passes, it should be done with explicit statements that this is not a blessing, there should be oversight hearings to understand what happened, and Congress should include provisions that ensure that Americans' private records will not be dealt with like that again.
Mr. McCain believes that "neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the A.C.L.U. and trial lawyers, understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001," Mr. Holtz-Eakin wrote.
And if Mr. McCain is elected president, Mr. Holtz-Eakin added, he would do everything he could to prevent terrorist attacks, "including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution."
The author of this NYT story, Charles Savage, interestingly enough had an interview with John McCain six months ago and the topic of warrantless wiretaps came up then, too.
Mr. McCain was asked whether he believed that the president had constitutional power to conduct surveillance on American soil for national security purposes without a warrant, regardless of federal statutes.
He replied: "There are some areas where the statutes don’t apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is."
Following up, the interviewer asked whether Mr. McCain was saying a statute trumped a president’s powers as commander in chief when it came to a surveillance law. "I don’t think the president has the right to disobey any law," Mr. McCain replied.
David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said that while the language used by Mr. McCain in his answers six months ago was imprecise, the recent statement by Mr. Holtz-Eakin "seems to contradict precisely what he said earlier."
McCain's ever moving position on FISA and telco amnesty might just be influenced by his presidential campaign. More precisely, by the staff and advisers on his campaign, which is absolutely lousy with lobbyists for the telcos, many of whom have and continue to lobby on telco amnesty. Seriously, USA Today has reported that 23 out of 66 current or former lobbyists working on or with the campaign represented telcos. And some of the most prominent names on his campaign now--Charlie Black, Wayne Berman, Dan Coats, as well as a bunch of fundraisers--John Green, Bryan Cunningham, Kirk Blalock, Kirsten Chadwick--have lobbied (or continue to lobby) in FISA on behalf of the telcos.
Hmmmm..... That seems like a tailor made issue that the Democratic nominee for President could use against his opponent for the next five months. You've got a threefer in this one: McCain really is seeking Bush's third term, down to the unitary executive; yet another massive flip-flop ("I was for the Constitution before I was against it, really!"); and the fact that he and his campaign are nothing more than partially owned subsidiaries of the telcos. What more could Obama ask for in one issue?
That is, if the brainiac Democrats in Congress don't blow it by signing off on some Republican "compromise" and pushing telco amnesty through this summer. Hopefully they'll recognize that it's not just bloggers yammering about this, that now both the Washington Post and the New York Times smell blood in the water when it comes to McCain and FISA. Hopefully, they'll be smart enough politicians to see opportunity staring them in the face.
And hopefully Senator Obama will recognize this opportunity as well, and put the kabash on any deals with Republicans over FISA. Because he's the party leader now. He can do that.
Labels: John McCain; Flip-Flopper
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
How big of a douchebag is David Brooks?
He's such a big douchebag that he tries to criticize Barack Obama as not being an oh-so-regular guy (just like the tortoise shell spectacled and pink necktied drip Brooks is, of course) by saying:
[H]e doesn‘t seem like a guy who can go into an Applebee‘s salad bar and people think he fits in naturally there.
Only problem? David Brooks has apparently never stepped out of the limo and actually gone into an Applebees. Because they don't have salad bars.
Excuse me, you're out of Low Fat Ranch. Oh, I'm sorry,
I thought you worked here, Mr. Regular Fellow!
Oh, that Barack Obama! Why, he probably doesn't even know proper etiquette between chukkers at one of those "NASCAR" motoring exhibitions! (That's what the little people like these days, isn't it, Lovie?)
(h/t: Crooks & Liars)
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
America makes History. Barack Obama is the Democratic Nominee for President of the United States.
Obama Seals Nomination: "This is our moment."
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Before a crowd of cheering thousands, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois laid claim to the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday night, taking a historic step toward his once-improbable goal of becoming the nation's first black president. Hillary Rodham Clinton maneuvered for the vice presidential spot on his fall ticket without conceding her own defeat.
"America, this is our moment," the 46-year-old senator and one-time community organizer said in his first appearance as the Democratic nominee-in-waiting. "This is our time. Our turn to turn the page on the policies of the past."
Obama's victory set up a five-month campaign with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a race between a first-term Senate opponent of the Iraq War and a 71-year-old former Vietnam prisoner of war and staunch supporter of the current U.S. military mission.
And both men seemed eager to begin.
McCain spoke first, in New Orleans, and he accused his younger rival of voting "to deny funds to the soldiers who have done a brilliant and brave job" in Iraq. It was a reference to 2007 legislation to pay for the Iraq war, a measure Obama opposed citing the lack of a timetable for withdrawing troops.
McCain agreed with Obama that the presidential race would focus on change. "But the choice is between the right change and the wrong change, between going forward and going backward," he said.
Obama responded quickly, pausing only long enough to praise Clinton for "her strength, her courage and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight."
As for his general election rival, he said, "It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95 percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.
"It's not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs. ... And it's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave young men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians."
In a symbolic move, Obama spoke in the same hall _ filled to capacity _ where McCain will accept the Republican nomination at his party's convention in September.