Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I've been sick, and being sick means that I ended up overwhelmingly behind, and therefore, blogging hasn't been high on my list of things to do.

Eventually, there will be more letters, but the only thing I'll probably be writing today is a condolence card to my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Doltz, whose son died in Iraq on Saturday. I didn't really know him, he graduated from high school before I got there. I knew, and had an enormous crush on, his younger brother. You may have seen Ryan even if you didn't know it; he was in a commercial for some kind of shave gel or razor that featured VMI. The kid coming up over the wall was Ryan.

I'm going to be taking/making up 3, maybe 4 exams tomorrow. I have to go work on that now.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Congressional Oversight & You 

Dear President Bush,

Over at Pandagon, I see that you've found an all new way to mess with government: Retroactively classifying information given to Congress two years ago regarding charges that the FBI missed terrorist warnings before September 11th. Even information on where the translator making the charges worked is now classified. This has never happened before.

This was the Justice Department's idea. You remember them, right? The department that decided to declassify a memo to mess with 9-11 Commissioner Gorelick for fun? Forgive me if I don't believe that this has anything to do with national security.

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is calling this "ludicrous" and he's right. If I was a staffer who had access to these documents, I'd be photocopying them and leaving them on windshields at every mall and grocery store in a 20 mile radius. Sadly, that probably won't happen, but seriously, do you think you could do things in a manner that could be described as something other than Nixonian? For me?

All Criminals in Their Coats and Their Ties 

Dear President Bush,

I spend a lot of time thinking about how morally corrupt you and your administration are, but this just makes me ill. White House Counsel Albert Gonzales, who is currently in my top ten of worst people working in the White House, with a bullet, wrote that the war against terrorism, "in my judgment renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners." Human decency isn't a fad; it never goes out of style nor does it become obsolete. What is wrong with you?

He also said another advantage would be "would be that United States officials could not be prosecuted for war crimes in the future by prosecutors and independent counsels who might see the fighting in a different light." You know, this doesn't sound to me like an innovative new framework for a new time. This sounds like you knew goddamn well that war crimes were on your list of things to do and wanted to make sure your ass was nicely covered.

But it was the Justice Department memorandum that advised "creat[ing] a situation in which [American officials] could plausibly claim that abused prisoners were never in United States custody" that really made my morning. There are no words to express how disgusted I am with you right now.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Jesus Don't Want Me for a Sunbeam 

Dear President Bush,

How many times am I going to have to explain to you that we don't live in a theocracy? Because this insanity horrifies me. If you want to meet with religious leaders about some things, great; some of them are terrific people. If you want to meet with diehard crazy folks who are most interested in having a US policy on Israel that brings them closer to the Rapture about US policy on Israel, we have a serious problem. How can you not find this alarming:
When Pastor Upton was asked to explain why the group's website describes the Apostolic Congress as "the Christian Voice in the nation's capital," instead of simply a Christian voice in the nation's capital, he responded, "There has been a real lack of leadership in having someone emerge as a Christian voice, someone who doesn't speak for the right, someone who doesn't speak for the left, but someone who speaks for the people, and someone who speaks from a theocratical perspective."

When his words were repeated back to him to make sure he had said a "theocratical" perspective, not a "theological" perspective, he said, "Exactly. Exactly. We want to know what God would have us say or what God would have us do in every issue."
These people got to meet with a variety of advisors on a variety of issues. What planet are you living on that these people represent anything other than a small sect actively interested in getting a lot of people killed?

I think Im going to go be ill.

My Home and Native Land 

Dear President Bush,

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a country where access to safe medication wasn't overtly politicized because leaders care more about people's lives than scoring points with their base? I'm guessing not, but I still wanted to let you know that in Canada, my dream is a reality. Please try to keep in mind that you are the President, not a CEO, and in theory government experts exist to tell the truth for the sake of the people rather than to cover things up for the sake of marketing. I know you have problems with this concept, but I swear to you it's true.

Honesty, The Best Policy 

Dear President Bush,

I think this headline really says it all: White House Is Trumpeting Programs It Tried To Cut. To make it better, you are doing this on trips I'm paying for. I just wanted to say thanks.

No, actually, I wanted to say knock it off because it's extraordinarily annoying. Use some of that ungodly money you fundraised instead.

Friday, May 14, 2004


Hey folks, the weekend is here, so how about you hit up the President with your own letter? Don't keep it all inside. It's unhealthy.

An Accident, In That You Got Caught 

Dear President Bush,

Explain this to me, like I'm six years old.
A group of senior military lawyers were so concerned about changes in the rules designed to safeguard prisoners during interrogation that they sought help outside the Defense Department, according to a New York lawyer who headed a recent study of how prisoners have been treated in the war on terrorism.

..."They were extremely upset. They said they were being shut out of the process, and that the civilian political lawyers, not the military lawyers, were writing these new rules of engagement," said Scott Horton, who was chairman of the New York City Bar Assn. committee that filed a report this month on the interrogation of detainees by the U.S.
And who did these civilian lawyers get their authority to fiddle with the Geneva Conventions from? Rumsfeld says these violations were approved by your own administration. But you didn't know that things would go so far or maybe you didn't know about this at all? Let's ask Mr. Horton what he thinks about that:
The military lawyers complained that the Pentagon was creating "an atmosphere of legal ambiguity," Horton said. "What's happened is not an accident. It is exactly what they were warning about a year ago," he said..."It's one thing when violations occur in the heat of battle, the fog of war. It's something else when violations of Geneva occur when it is a deliberate policy cast at the highest levels of the Pentagon — and I think it's at the highest levels of the administration," Horton said.
Sounds like Mr. Horton is calling bullshit on you, Mr. President. You're either incompetent, a liar, or both. My money is on the combination. I know that Republicans are in favor of smaller government, but I don't think this is what they had in mind.

So Goddamn Full of Rape 

Dear President Bush,

Since you were apparently shocked that American soldiers raped prisoners, I wanted to make sure you didn't miss this. The Department of Defense decided to recognize that the military has serious problems with sexual assault. It took more than 100 of them being reported in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait in an 18 month period to get Rumsfeld's attention, but I'll take what I can get from him at this point.

I know we've been over this before, but I wanted to talk about it with you again for three reasons aside from the obviously egregious nature of this crime. First, we have this:
Some members of Congress and victims advocacy groups criticized the report because it did not specifically address contentious issues like the uniform definition of sexual assault, the role of victim advocates and the need for a policy of confidentiality for people reporting assaults, a provision many said would make victims feel more comfortable in reporting incidents.
I do not think you can possibly comprehend how difficult it is to report the person who raped you. What this tells me is a soldier who chooses to do so has to do it alone at risk of retaliation from peers and has no idea if her or his story will be placed under the category it should. That is an absolute nightmare. What did survivors of sexual assault in the military do to deserve this?

Next, there's this:
"They've done numerous studies over the years and they have all come out the same way," said Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York and co-chairwoman of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, which has had several hearings on the issue. "They report that they don't have this and that in place, but they never create things. Not only have they not come to terms with simple definitions, they have not come to terms with what to do, period. This calls out for legislation and that is what we have to do."
If legislation is necessary to do everything we can to stop soldiers' lives from being torn apart in this manner, then I suggest you get cracking, Mr. President.

Finally, I firmly believe that it wasn't coincidental that sexual violence and threat of sexual violence were used against the Iraqi prisoners and that the military has a major problem with sexual violence generally. The executive director of the Miles FOundation agrees with me:
"These are interconnected intersecting types of violence being perpetrated... There are serious interconnections about how these two issues are related to violence, control, and subjugation."
She's an advocate for a whopping 153 women who have been assaulted by other soldiers in and around Iraq. How many more will she be representing before you start caring about this?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I'm Afraid of Americans 

Dear President Bush,

I haven't written to you in a while because what has come to light about how the United States treats prisoners literally makes me ill. I never expected to hear anything good about our worldwide gulag archipelago, but in my worst nightmares I could not have guessed it would be this bad. I suppose it isn't really fair to compare what we're doing to Stalin's prison camps. At least those people had an idea of how long they were going to be imprisoned, even if their sentences could be extended on a whim, but I digress.

You can express regret that this happened (and I'm sure is happening) until you are blue in the face, Mr. President, but this is your fault. What we have seen so far is not isolated or the end, but it is relatively new. General Taguba went in to that prison and found no method at all, sir, and that does not just happen out of nowhere. If nothing else, soldiers are taught to follow orders. They were told that this was okay.

I am well aware that it is logistically difficult for you to fire Secretary Rumsfeld, what with the confirmation hearings and all, but I don't give a good goddamn. We most certainly do not owe him anything aside from perhaps a warning not to let the screen door hit him on the ass on the way out. How dare you say he is doing a "superb" job?

On your behalf, Americans raped, killed, and tortured. The majority of people we've arrested did nothing wrong, but no one deserves this. I'm not interested in moral equivalency games; you have made a mockery of every idea this country was founded on. This does not happen spontaneaously. This is your fault.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Feeling Better, But Also Worse 

Dear President Bush,

All kinds of fresh hell have come to light in the last few days, and I'm sure I'll get to that, but for now let's talk about censorship. This is a fairly small matter, but it serves as yet another reminder why I'm currently embarrassed to be your constituent. Disney has forbidden its subsidiary Miramax from releasing Michael Moore's new movie Fahrenheit 911 in North America. This isn't over an NC-17 rating or excessive budget issues, but rather how critical it is of you. The official word from Disney is that they don't want to alienate people.

But Moore's agent has a different take on the matter:
Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor.

"Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn't mean I listened to him," Mr. Emanuel said. "He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation and that's why he didn't want me to sell it to Miramax. He didn't want a Disney company involved."
That's certainly an interesting fear to have, isn't it, Mr. President? Michael Eisner thinks that you and your family are such controlling, snivelling children that you'd seek financial retribution over a movie. I've heard that you believe in the free market, and if the movie is bad then no one would see it, right? Oh, wait, that is totally something you'd do, and you don't care about markets if you can't control them. My bad. When did this country become a bad gangster flick anyway?

Saturday, May 01, 2004

I Heart Ezra and Jesse 

I've sick for the past couple of days, and the cold medicine is not conducive to writing anything coherently, so you should go to Pandagon and read this, which I wrote when my brain was still functioning. It's a synopsis of what happened at the March for Women's Lives. It was a happy day, and now you can pretend you were there, or if you did go, you can live it all over again.

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