April 29, 2010

In Your FACE, Dennis Perrin!

This is an intriguing section of The Agronomist, a documentary directed by Jonathan Demme about Haitian radio journalist/weirdo Jean Dominique.

First of all, you can see what a compelling person Dominique was. ("And we profit from this...We went faster...further!") Demme says in the commentary track that he started making the movie just as an excuse to spend time with him.

Secondly, you see that out in the hinterlands of the U.S. empire, it does sometimes make a difference whether the president's a Democrat or Republican. It may be the difference between things being 95% horrible and 100% horrible, but that can be the margin between someone being tortured or not. And perhaps it just means that only 99,500 people are tortured each year instead of 100,000, but that's a pretty big difference for those non-tortured 500.

On the other hand, Dominique was eventually murdered in April, 2000, when Bill Clinton was president.

(Read Savage Mules.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 09:10 AM | Comments (31)

April 26, 2010

Blerg Friends

Here are two new additions to my blurgroll:

Snoburbia, about the dreadful suburbs of Washington, D.C. Snoburbia also produces t-shirts for the member of the overclass and/or person satirizing the overclass in your life.

Setty's Notebook, from an American journalist in Venezuela.

Also, Jewbonics was already in the blurmrull, but I've been remiss in not recommending every post, particularly his recent writing from Gaza.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 01:22 PM | Comments (2)

April 25, 2010

Press Release

Original here. Background here.

09.11.2001 NEW YORK, USA – At 8:50 a.m. today AQ forces identified 3,000 insurgents in the World Trede Center District, Manhotton Province. The insurgents were determined to be armed and members of several militias, including Federel Burro Investigating, Central Intelligent Agence, and Summit Security Services, all known to be responsible for terrorist attacks worldwide.

AG forces engaged the insurgents with two Boeing 767s, killing the insurgents. The structures housing the militia headquarters subsequently collapsed, indicating that ammunition and explosives were in the insurgents' possession that would have subsequently been used against AG forces and US civilians.

It is AQ policy to strive when possible to avoid civilian casualties. AQ regrets any collateral damage that may have been generated during the engagement by the insurgents' use of civilians as human shields. AQ Brigadier General Khalid Sheikh Mohammad stated: "[T]his the language of any war...I'm not happy that three thousand been killed in America. I feel sorry even. I don't like to kill children and the kids. Never Islam are, give me green light to kill peoples...I feel very sorry they been killed kids in 9/11. What I will do? This is the language."

AQ is conducting a full investigation of this incident.

AQ deplores the terroristic actions of the U.S. militias, due to their indiscriminate attacks causing death and injuries to innocent civilians.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:06 PM | Comments (6)

April 23, 2010

Five Dollar Friday

The Five Dollar Friday website (and Five Dollar Friday tumblr) are almost ready. But in the meantime go here for an explanation and list of my own former recipients. Also check out #5DF on Twitter to see who else is donating to whom.

Today I'm giving money to Consortium News. Robert Parry is not just one of the greatest journalists in the U.S., he's embraced the possibilities of the internet longer than almost anyone. In a world in which people with power cared about reality, Parry would be Foreign Editor of the Washington Post and have multiple books on the New York Times bestseller list. But here in this world he needs our support to keep Consortium News running.

Here are some of Parry's greatest hits, although the descriptions are mine; he's far too sober a journalist to give them these kind of titles:

Reverend Moon Owns a Major Newspaper and Is Completely Fucking Nuts

Of Course the CIA Protected Cocaine Dealers and Lied About It

Ronald Reagan: How He Sleazed His Way Into Office Via Something Akin to Treason

Dear God in Heaven Colin Powell Is a Scumbucket

If after reading those articles you're inclined to send some money their way yourself, Consortium News is holding a spring fundraiser.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 04:02 PM | Comments (7)

April 22, 2010

Power Makes You Stupid

I've literally never met any Americans outside of my family who're familiar with the story of Potosi in Bolivia. And the only reason we know about it is because my grandfather wrote a book about it (The Imperial City of Potosi: An Unwritten Chapter in the History of Spanish America) and later became an honorary citizen of the city.

The reason this is notable is that, according to some estimates, eight million people—both indigenous to Bolivia and African slaves—were worked to death in the Potosi silver mines by the Spanish empire. You'd think that would be a high enough death toll to make it into rich people's history, but no. (In fairness to the Spanish, it did take them several hundred years to kill everyone.) Meanwhile, there's apparently still a saying in Spanish valer un potosi, which literally means "to merit a potosi," but figuratively means "to be worth a fortune."

But here's what's most interesting to me: even now there are children working in the Potosi mines, desperately trying to scrape out a living from the depleted veins of zinc and silver and tin. And as depicted in the documentary The Devil's Miner, they know the history of Potosi—from the brutality of the Spanish to the manipulation of religion to mesmerize people. In other words, the "uneducated" people understand what's going on, while my Stutts-educated contemporaries know nothing about anything important.

Here's a scene in which Basilio Vargas talks to his younger brother Bernardino deep within the mine. They're chewing coca leaves in front of a "Tio," one of which is apparently in every mine to represent the devil, who runs the underworld.

BASILIO: Do you know the story of the Tio?


BASILO: This Tio is from colonial times. When the Spaniards arrived, the Indios thought they were gods sent from heaven. But it wasn't like this. They were evil people who abused them. There was also a mita. Do you know what mita is? It was forced labor, without leaving the mine for six months, with twenty hours of work and four hours for resting. The Indios didn't want to work in the mines anymore, so they rose up against the Spanish crown and said, "We don't want to work anymore." The Spanish knew the Indios believed in all kinds of gods. So they built a statue with horns and a tail. And to the Indios they said, "If you don't work, this God will kill you." They were not able to say "Dios." They said Tios, because in the Qechua alphabet the letter "D" does not exist. So they gave him the name "Tio."

I'm going to say what everyone's thinking: why have these children failed to be as intelligent and hard-working as Lloyd Blankfein? Really, they have no one to blame but themselves.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:29 PM | Comments (16)

April 18, 2010

Danger! Danger! Memory Hole Efficiency Falls to 99.98%!


I'm afraid I have some very bad news.

Since the SEC filed suit against Goldman Sachs for fraud on Friday, the media has produced over 5,000 articles about it. Through superhuman effort, they managed not to mention in any of them that John Paulson, the hedge fund manager at whose behest Goldman acted, hired Alan Greenspan soon after the events in the fraud complaint.

At least, until now. To everyone's shock and dismay, an obscure blug by someone named Cody Willard that's part of the Wall Street Journal's online network has pointed this out.

Believe me, we are doing everything in our power to locate and punish those responsible, and will have the system back working at 100% as soon as possible.

–Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:42 PM | Comments (4)

Alan Greenspan: Still A Lying Sociopath After All These Years

Most people would rest on their laurels after creating the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. And the remaining few might figure that that, PLUS being an enthusiastic supporter of mass murder for oil, would be enough. But not Alan Greenspan.

A few weeks ago Greenspan was interviewed on Bloomberg TV.

GREENSPAN: Everybody missed it—academia, the Federal Reserve, all regulators...

HUNT: I’ve just been reading Michael Lewis’ book. There were people who saw it coming...Why were they so prescient and the people here in Washington were not?

GREENSPAN: Now you have to ask yourself why would they make that judgment. The problem that you’re raising is a statistical illusion...In every crisis, you will always find a group of people after the fact who got it right...

HUNT: So they were just lucky. It was a broken clock, right, price of day with them.

GREENSPAN: Well, let me put it this way, I know most of the people who’ve done well here...they are a handful. People who can consistently call a turning point are very rare. The vast proportion of economists, myself included, have records which are average...

But the problem here is that there’s a failure to understand what would happen, if you took 1,000 people and you split them into two and you had them toss coins against each other, when you get down to the last two guys, tell them that they don’t know how to toss coins.

1. Do you noticed what Alan Greenspan left out here? It's not just he "knows" most of the people who profited off this crisis. HE'S WORKING FOR THE RICHEST ONE. John Paulson made literally billions of dollars by betting against the housing bubble, and hired Greenspan in January, 2008 before everything completely collapsed. (And not just that: Paulson also took a fraction of his billions and endowed an Alan Greenspan Chair in Economics at NYU.)

In other words, either Greenspan just called his boss a man who's not particularly insightful and just got lucky...or Greenspan (and Paulson) know this is the line of crap you have to peddle to the rubes. I'm going to guess it's the latter.

2. Greenspan is conflating two very different things. Yes, it's hard to call when a bubble will collapse, which is necessary to do in order to make lots of money. In fact, if Dean Baker—who'd been pointing out the bubble since 2002—had been a hedge fund manager, he might well have lost all his clients' money by betting that the bubble would collapse before it did. But it's not difficult to know if a bubble exists. And that's what matters for the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

EXTRA CREDIT: Alan Greenspan is also extremely worried that we won't have the political will to slash Social Security and Medicare.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:16 PM | Comments (13)

God Hates Dean Baker

Because God hates Dean Baker, he has been condemned to an eternity of listening to dumbass reporting about complex collateralized debt obligations. I believe this was Dante's eighth circle of hell.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:23 PM | Comments (8)

April 16, 2010

Five Dollar Friday

There will be a website up soon devoted just to Five Dollar Friday, but in the meantime go here for an explanation and list of my own former recipients. Also check out #5DF on Twitter to see who else is donating to whom.

Today I'm giving money to Wikileaks.org. I'd been intrigued and interested in Wikileaks since they started, and should have given them money long before now. I've been finally motivated to finally do it by their Iraq video, now watched over six million times on youtube:

I'd love to know who else is giving money and why, so please mention it on twitter or tell me in comments. For example, Tess Lynch explains here why she's donating to Mills Baker:

What does Mills do for the rest of us, who are all making content for a place (thing? Concept?) that didn't even really exist when I was a kid? He shows us that TL;DR shouldn't be a consideration when we have a lot to say and are willing to explain ourselves well. He's an example of a person who uses the web not for cats and bacon, which are dear to my heart and never to be discounted, but for creating essays that borrow from others and give meticulous credit, that reference the article or the author or the blogger that gave him a jumping-off point for an idea; he annotates and you click on a biography of Nabokov or Sarah Belfort's A++ Tumblr, and you end up spending a great deal of your evening following the breadcrumbs of Mills' thoughts. Isn't that what you'd like the internet to be like? What a wonderful present it can be, what great fodder for conversations you'd never had before, and how generous to share, so considerately, an idea that goes beyond himself and his own concerns. Mills has ideas, opinions, questions, and often they relate only tangentially to himself, which is of course the mark of a person who sees the world as endlessly amusing, befuddling, and beautiful.


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 04:13 PM | Comments (6)

April 13, 2010

Also, Notice the Subtle Yet Virulent Anti-Federationism

I didn't know that "And the Children Shall Lead," widely believed to be the worst episode ever of the original Star Trek, was directed by Marvin Chomsky, cousin of Noam.

The evidence is suggestive that this is all part of a massive, ongoing plot to destroy America.


(Picture found here.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 06:50 PM | Comments (27)

Any Suggestions on How I Could Become a Better Geography Teacher? (PLEASE NOTE: I Will Never Under Any Circumstances Use Maps)

Meet the Press host David Gregory on twitter, January 22nd:

How can MTP better inform its viewers?

David Gregory on twitter, one hour later:

How can MTP better inform its viewers?

The Washington Post, yesterday:

David Gregory is excited about the "striking" new set for "Meet the Press," which debuts May 2. "This is part of the evolution of the program," he says. "For the Gregory era of the program, there's a visual piece of that. It doesn't limit me to one position. It allows me to use technology in various ways. I can even stand."

Gregory has hung onto the No. 1 Sunday spot [on NBC]...ABC's "This Week"...has been hurt by rotating hosts...interim [This Week] host Jake Tapper has arranged for the St. Petersburg Times' PolitiFact site to fact-check what "This Week" guests say after each program.

An "interesting idea," Gregory allows, but not one the NBC show will be emulating. "People can fact-check 'Meet the Press' every week on their own terms."

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 07:36 AM | Comments (6)

April 12, 2010

Introducing...THE CIVIT

From Mike, here's a perfect example of the kind of beautiful weirdness only possible with the internet. He was screwing around with Xtranormal, which creates a cartoon with voices for you if you provide the script and pick from available characters and settings. As you see, he saw two possible characters who are clearly JV superheros and became inspired.

If any of it's hard to understand, the script is below.

• • •

Civet: So, Broccoli Man…is this your first superhero convention?

Broccoli Man: Yeah. Sucks we have to take the train. Hey, Berenice —

C: “The Civet.”

BM: The what?

C: My name is The Civet. C-I-V-E-T. Do you think I would’ve had sex with a radioactive wildcat if I wanted to be called fucking Berenice?

BM: Sorry. So, Civet…do you work alone?

C: Usually. Most guys can’t stand the smell.

BM: That smell is you?

C: No, it’s the Merlot. Of course it’s me!

BM: I thought we were passing a rendering plant. Does it come out of your bottom?

C: Can we talk about something else? Look at these glasses! They’re like the goddamn Holy Grail.

BM: Do you have anal sacs, or a set of glands or something? I’m just wondering how it works.

C: You’ll just have to wonder. Do I ask you if you shit green?

BM: Does your nose get used to it? Can you smell anything?

C: I make great money. Chanel No. 5 paid my way through college.

BM: Awesome! Then you can pay for dinner.


Posted at 03:12 PM | Comments (1)

April 11, 2010

Henry "Car Bomb" Kissinger


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 02:58 PM | Comments (14)

April 09, 2010

Five Dollar Friday

Starting today, every Friday I'm going to give five dollars to someone who's produced something funny/interesting/worthwhile and is giving it away on the internet(s).

Obviously the internet is the greatest distribution technology ever created for music and writing and video and journalism. But it's also obvious it generally makes it more difficult for people producing such things to earn a living.

So I have three goals with this:

1. Finally start paying some of the people who've created wonderful things I've enjoyed.

2. If possible, get lots of other people online to start doing this as well. It would be a beautiful thing if it grew and grew, and three years from now 10,000 people were giving away $50,000 to artists every week. To help get things rolling, I've created the twitter hashtag #5DF. Every week I'll link to the recipient of my five dollars on twitter with that tag, and if you start doing it I encourage you to do the same. (I'll also archive all my recipients here.)

3. In my most grandiose dreams, this idea would—in the process of becoming popular—make people realize that we need a new way to fund all kinds of art. In theory the internet should be a dream come true for artists and people generally, but it will never fulfill its potential if everyone is trying to eke out a living from advertising or just what other people are willing to cough up on the spur of the moment.

I'm convinced the answer is something like Dean Baker's Artistic Freedom Vouchers. Baker's proposal is that the government give every adult a $100 voucher each year that they could in turn give to anyone producing anything creative.

You could donate $50 to a local band you love, $40 to The Real News, and the final $10 to a favorite blogger. *clears throat, points at self* Or any combination to anyone. The only catch for recipients is that if they accepted AFV money in a particular year, for a period of time afterward (say, five years) everything they produced would be copyright free. They could still charge for performances, or ads in their newspaper, or whatever. They just would have to allow anyone anywhere to make copies of what they did, or use what they did as part of their own artistic work.

This would cost about $20 billion per year, which is less than 1% of the federal budget—i.e., nothing in the scheme of things. But it would support 400,000 artists per year at $50,000. All of a sudden artists would have a way to make a living doing what they love, and everyone else would suddenly have a gigantic new source of stuff. (It would be more difficult to get stupendously rich, but that's not the goal of most artists...and in any case, you could always stay with the old copyright system if you wanted.)

I think that's enough goals for now. Let's get started:

Friday, April 9th, 2010: $5.00 goes to Nina Katchadourian for her song Sky Mall Kitties:

Friday, April 16th, 2010: Wikileaks

Friday, April 23rd, 2010: Consortium News

Friday, April 30th, 2010: Showdown in America

Friday, May 7th, 2010: Consumers Union

Friday, May 14, 2010: Black Agenda Report

Friday, May 21st, 2010: This American Life

Friday, May 28th, 2010: GRIT TV

Friday, June 4th, 2010: Jonathan Coulton

Friday-ish, June ~11th, 2010: Marcy Wheeler

Friday, June 18th, 2010 Firedoglake

Friday, June 25th, 2010 Whitest Kids U'Know


Friday, July 9th, 2010 Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting *and* Douglas Lain's kickstarter project on food

Friday, July 16th: Consortium News repeat

Friday, July 23rd: Democracy Now!

Friday, July 30th: Hyperbole and a Half

Friday, August 6th: The Free Press

Friday, August 13th: Max Ajl of Jewbonics

Friday, August 20th: Gar Lipow and Grist

Friday, August 27th: Dennis Perrin

Friday, September 3rd: The Real News

Friday, September 10th: The Real News

Friday, September 17th: The Real News

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 04:37 PM | Comments (30)

April 08, 2010


Here's my prediction for the final outcome of the Wikileaks video: the U.S. military will continue to claim some of the people killed were armed insurgents. This will satisfy all U.S. conservatives and most U.S. "liberals." Meanwhile, everyone else on this planet will continue to gape at us in slack-jawed horror.

Why the sharp difference between us and the rest of humanity?

1. I have no idea whether any of the people shot were armed, or insurgents, or armed insurgents. There will inevitably be long dreary arguments about this between U.S. liberals and conservatives, complete with 5,000-word blog posts analyzing the video frame by frame.

But here's the thing: even if everyone but the journalist and children were armed insurgents, no one else on earth cares. That's because, when another country invades yours, you're allowed to fight back. And if you invade another country and start slaughtering people, you don't somehow make yourself the good guy by proving that they were trying to fight back.

2. The technological mismatch between the U.S. and everyone else is so gigantic that it violates normal humans' sense of justice. This is something almost no Americans give a second thought to, but it's widely appreciated in those countries (ie, all of them) that don't have noiseless death-machine drones flown by joystick from 10,000 miles away.

In other words, even if everyone shot in the video had been fighting the U.S., and even if it had somehow been on some neutral third ground, the rest of the world would still be horrified at the unfairness. For instance, here's Colin Powell writing in his autobiography about the shelling of Beirut in 1983, and how that led to the suicide bombing of the Marine barracks there:

McFarlane, now in Beirut, persuaded the President to have the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey start hurling 16-inch shells into the mountains above Beirut, in World War II style, as if we were softening up the beaches on some Pacific atoll prior to an invasion. What we tend to overlook in such situations is that other people will react much as we would... And since they could not reach the battleship, they found a more vulnerable target, the exposed Marines at the airport.

I think we can count on the fact that, since no one could reach the Apache attack helicopters shooting from far overhard, someone will try to find a more vulnerable target. And Americans will find this terribly unfair, while to the rest of the world it will seem like the essence of fairness.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 11:32 PM | Comments (23)

April 07, 2010

Ow, So Much Funny

Please start reading Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half if you aren't already. Just this picture, a self-portrait of herself at seven, covered in blood, weeping and holding a butcher's knife, should be enough to get you started. (It's from this alarmingly funny story.)


Mike also gives Hyperbole and a Half nine thumbs up.

P.S. Allle Brosh is on Twitter and now in the funny blugroll at left. And someone has set up a Facebook page for fans.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 10:12 PM | Comments (4)

Support The Troops?

By: John Caruso

[ Since Jon's been writing about the Wikileaks video, I thought I'd repost this article from 2006. Please pardon the uneven link quality—many of the original links have gone bad since the posting was first published, so I've replaced them with the best versions I could find. ]

With the attention being focused on the massacre in Haditha (and now Ishaqi as well), and the utterly predictable efforts by conservatives to downplay  these horrible crimes and to stifle dissent with their endlessly repeated bromide of "support the troops," I thought it would be good to recall some examples from the past few years of just what it is we're being asked to support.

From the New York Times :

"We had a great day," Sergeant Schrumpf said. "We killed a lot of people." ...

But more than once, Sergeant Schrumpf said, he faced a different choice: one Iraqi soldier standing among two or three civilians. He recalled one such incident, in which he and other men in his unit opened fire. He recalled watching one of the women standing near the Iraqi soldier go down.

"I'm sorry," the sergeant said. "But the chick was in the way."

From Reuters:

Two soldiers picked out two figures on a rooftop and quickly lined up their shot. Thankfully, First Sgt. Eric Engram saw them and also saw their target. “No man, that's a kid and a woman. It's a KID and a WOMAN,” he bellowed, and his soldiers lowered their rifles.

"These guys are young and most just want to get their first confirmed kill, so they're too anxious to get off shots. I hate to say ‘bragging rights’ but they want that kill,” Engram said an hour later.

Can you imagine what kind of mindset makes a person not just happy, not just proud, but eager to brag about killing another human being?  And can you imagine the (military) culture in which bragging about killing another human being is considered a badge of honor?  I can't either.

From the Scotsman (or see also the London Times):

US marine, Corporal Ryan Dupre, surveying the scene by the bridge at An Nasiriyah, said: "The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy. I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin’ Iraqi. No I won’t get hold of one - I’ll kill him."

From Reuters:

A tracked armored vehicle has crushed two men up the road.

"Killed one, ripped the legs off another," Monty said briskly, a cigarette dangling from his lip.

From Newsday:

"It's like you're fighting a faceless enemy," said Cpl. Jeb Moser, 21, of Ruston, La. "They're all just ragheads to me, the same way they used to call the enemy 'gooks' in Vietnam."

"Raghead, raghead, can't you see? This old war ain't -- to me," sang Lance Cpl. Christopher Akins, 21, of Louisville, Ky., sweat running down his face in rivulets as he dug a fighting trench one recent afternoon under a blazing sun.

Asked whom he considered a raghead, Akins said: "Anybody who actively opposes the United States of America's way ... If a little kid actively opposes my way of life, I'd call him a raghead, too."

From Editor and Publisher:

"We splashed that bastard," a Western eyewitness quoted one Marine as saying to another after they'd shot an Iraqi dead.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

The 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps said he found the soldier after dark inside a nearby home with the grenade launcher next to him. Covarrubias said he ordered the man to stop and turn around.

"I went behind him and shot him in the back of the head," Covarrubias said. "Twice."

Did he feel any remorse for executing a man who'd surrendered to him?  No; in fact, he'd taken the man's ID card off of his dead body to keep as a souvenir.

From the Daily Mirror:

"There was no dilemma when it came to shooting people who were not in uniform, I just pulled the trigger.

"It was up close and personal the whole time, there wasn't a big distance. If they were there, they were enemy, whether in uniform or not. Some were, some weren't."

Describing the scene during combat Richardson admitted shooting injured soldiers and leaving them to die. He said: "S***, I didn't help any of them. I wouldn't help the f******.  There were some you let die. And there were some you double-tapped." Making a shooting sign with his hand he went on: "Once you'd reached the objective, and once you'd shot them and you're moving through, anything there, you shoot again. You didn't want any prisoners of war. You hate them so bad while you're fighting, and you're so terrified, you can't really convey the feeling, but you don't want them to live." And despite there being no link between Iraq and the September 11 attacks Richardson admitted that it gave him his motivation to fight Iraqis.

"There's a picture of the World Trade Centre hanging up by my bed and I keep one in my flak jacket. Every time I feel sorry for these people I look at that. I think, 'They hit us at home and, now, it's our turn.' I don't want to say payback but, you know, it's pretty much payback."

Perhaps if someone in Richardson's family is ever killed, he can go pick someone at random off the street and torture them to death; that would really give the killers their "payback," wouldn't it?

Note also the phrasing: "I don't want to say payback."  Just like "I hate to say 'bragging rights'."  The reticence is telling.  These are the dirty little truths that lie behind all the elevated rhetoric and noble words.  These are the things you're not supposed to admit are lurking in the shadows, so that you won't disrupt the elevated fantasies of the cheerleaders for war.

From the Los Angeles Times:

"I enjoy killing Iraqis," says Staff Sgt. William Deaton, 30, who killed a hostile fighter the night before. Deaton has lost a good friend in Iraq. "I just feel rage, hate when I'm out there. I feel like I carry it all the time. We talk about it. We all feel the same way."

"I enjoy killing Iraqis."  Does that sound horrific to you?  Think it would to any normal human being? Unfortunately, you're wrong; some people liked it so much they made a sticker out of it. Then again, maybe you're right, since anyone who would celebrate such viciousness isn't a normal human being--or at least that's how I like to think of the world.

From the Seattle Times:

"I want to know if I killed that guy yesterday," Hall says. "I saw blood spurt from his leg, but I want to be sure I killed him."

No, it wasn't enough for Hall to watch the blood spurt from his victim's leg; he wants to know the man was dead, and that he was the cause of it.  After all, he wants those bragging rights.

This article does at least contain some notes of humanity.  One man struggles to reconcile what he's become with what he used to be, and what he hopes to be again:

The vehicle goes silent as the driver, Spc. Joshua Dubois, swerves around asphalt previously uprooted by a blast.

"I'm confused about how I should feel about killing," says Dubois, who has a toddler back home. "The first time I shot someone, it was the most exhilarating thing I'd ever felt."

Dubois turns back to the road. "We talk about killing all the time," he says. "I never used to talk this way. I'm not proud of it, but it's like I can't stop. I'm worried what I will be like when I get home."

That's what the culture does: it turns normal, sane people into people who are obsessed with killing other people ("we talk about killing all the time...it's like I can't stop").  Roll that fact around in your mind for a few moments.  All of us should be worried what it will like when they get home, and bring with them these lessons they learned in Iraq.

But I've saved the worst for last.  This is from the East Bay Express, in an article about a web site on which American soldiers can get free access to online pornography by posting their trophy photos of dead and mutilated Iraqis:

Six men in beige fatigues, identified as US Marines, laugh and smile for the camera while pointing at a burned, charcoal-black corpse lying at their feet.

The captions that accompany these images, which were apparently written by soldiers who posted them, laugh and gloat over the bodies. The person who posted a picture of a corpse lying in a pool of his own brains and entrails wrote, “What every Iraqi should look like.” The photograph of a corpse whose jaw has apparently rotted away, leaving a gaping set of upper teeth, bears the caption “bad day for this dude.” One person posted three photographs of corpses lying in the street and titled his collection “DIE HAJI DIE.”

There's no shred of humanity here at all.  Did the military turn these people into psychopaths, or did it just give them an outlet for what was already inside them?  In the end it doesn't matter; this is an inevitable result of putting people into a system in which killing another human being is treated as a badge of honor, rather than as the debasing, dehumanizing, horrific act that it is.

If you ever find yourself about to say that you "support the troops," I hope you'll remember these quotes--and the lessons they teach--and realize exactly what it is you're supporting.

— John Caruso

Posted at 03:39 AM | Comments (63)

April 06, 2010

Death From Above, Then and Now

Say what you will about Apache attack helicopters mowing people down in Baghdad, at least it wasn't U.S. generals directly pulling the trigger. This is from a great Consortium News article by Robert Parry and Normon Solomon:

To this day, [Colin] Powell has avoided criticizing the Vietnam War other than to complain that the politicians should not have restrained the military high command. Powell also was not one to blow the whistle on wayward superiors.

Powell even sided with one Americal Division general who was accused by the Army of murdering unarmed civilians while flying over Quang Ngai province. Helicopter pilots who flew Brig. Gen. John W. Donaldson alleged that the general gunned down the civilian Vietnamese almost for sport.

A senior investigator from the Donaldson case told The Consortium recently that two of the Vietnamese victims were an old man and an old woman who were shot to death while bathing. Though long retired from the Army -- and now quite elderly himself -- the investigator still spoke with a raw disgust about the events of a quarter century earlier. He requested anonymity before talking about the behavior of senior Americal officers.

"They used to bet in the morning how many people they could kill-- old people, civilians, it didn't matter," the investigator said. "Some of the stuff would curl your hair"...

For eight months in Chu Lai during 1968-69, Powell had worked with Donaldson and apparently developed a great respect for this superior officer. When the Army charged Donaldson with murder on June 2, 1971, Powell rose in the general's defense. Powell submitted an affidavit dated Aug. 10, 1971, which lauded Donaldson as "an aggressive and courageous brigade commander." Powell did not specifically refer to the murder allegations, but added that helicopter forays in Vietnam had been an "effective means of separating hostiles from the general population"...

[T]he investigator claimed that "we had him [Donaldson] dead to rights." Still, the investigation collapsed after the two pilot-witnesses were transferred to another Army base and apparently came under pressure from superiors already stung by the negative P.R. from the My Lai massacre. The two pilots withdrew their testimony, and the Army dropped all charges against Donaldson.

"John Donaldson was a cover-up specialist," the old investigator growled.

So, you know, progress.

P.S. This is from Colin Powell's autobiography:

Many of my generation, the career captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war, vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand.

Har har har.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 01:10 PM | Comments (11)

April 05, 2010

Michael Jackson Is Pop King of Sick Fucking Country

If you haven't seen it already, please watch this video, which was provided by an unknown person to Wikileaks. It's footage taken by a US helicopter on July 12, 2007 as it massacred about a dozen adult Iraqis, including two Reuters employees. Two children were wounded but apparently not killed, although no one seems to know what happened to them afterward. All the background details are available at a site Wikileaks set up, Collateral Murder:

What's particularly bizarre and deranged about this is that the handle of one of the helicopters involved is "Crazyhorse one-eight." Crazyhorse, of course, was murdered by the U.S. in 1877 after surrendering. Four hundred years of people asking us to come over and help them. (It goes without saying that the attack helicopters were Apaches.)

TIME AFTER TIME: At 15:30, one of the helicopter personnel — after watching the two children they just shot get carried away — says "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle."

This is very similar to Richard Nixon's reaction in the Oval Office after seeing the famous photo of a Vietnamese girl running naked after being burned by napalm: "I wonder if that was a fix." In both cases, the people directly responsible for hideous violence toward children find that their consciences are momentarily troubled. And in both cases, they quickly find a way to "explain" to themselves that it's not their fault, and immediately move on.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 04:51 PM | Comments (35)

April 04, 2010

Bill Clinton Causes, Feels Your Pain

By: John Caruso

Here's Bill Clinton last month, apologizing for his obliteration-by-trade-policy of Haiti's rice farming base:

Since 1981, the United States has followed a policy, until the last year or so when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food, so, thank goodness, they can leap directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. It was a mistake that I was a party to. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. I did that. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did. Nobody else.

Yes, what a crushing burden it is to have a livelihood that feeds you, your family, and the people around you.  How noble of Clinton to have wanted to free Haitians from this terrible responsibility!  And the benefits to heavily-subsidized US agricultural exporters were no doubt just a fortunate and entirely unintended side effect.  Win-win!  Except in this case it was, you know, win-die.  But you can't make an omelet, right?

Of course this isn't the first time Clinton has apologized from the bottom of his heart to black people whose lives he's helped destroy:

On March 25, 1998, then President Clinton visited Rwanda years after more than 800,000 people died in a genocidal civil war and said, "The international community must bear its share of responsibility for this tragedy." He continued, "All over the world there were people like me sitting in offices who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror."

Only the most cynical among us could fail to be moved by this obviously sincere mea culpa.  Well, the most cynical, and those who remember inconvenient facts like these:

President Bill Clinton's administration knew Rwanda was being engulfed by genocide in April 1994 but buried the information to justify its inaction, according to classified documents made available for the first time.

Senior officials privately used the word genocide within 16 days of the start of the killings, but chose not to do so publicly because the president had already decided not to intervene.

Intelligence reports obtained using the US Freedom of Information Act show the cabinet and almost certainly the president had been told of a planned "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis" before the slaughter reached its peak.

It took Hutu death squads three months from April 6 to murder an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus and at each stage accurate, detailed reports were reaching Washington's top policymakers.

The documents undermine claims by Mr Clinton and his senior officials that they did not fully appreciate the scale and speed of the killings. 

(In fact the Clinton administration studiously avoided calling what was happening in Rwanda "genocide", since it would have compelled them to act, opting instead for the more circumspect "acts of genocide":

Secretary of State Warren Christopher, an accomplished lawyer, instructed his staff to avoid calling the situation in Rwanda genocide, but merely to say that "acts of genocide may have been committed." Ambassador Rawson went one better: "As a responsible government, you don't just go round hollering 'genocide.' You say that acts of genocide may have occurred and they need to be investigated."

Strangely, though, Clinton's administration wasn't nearly so shy about invoking the useful specter of genocide to describe the relatively low level of killing in the civil war in Kosovo in 1999, when it could be used to drum up support for a military attack intended to establish NATO's "credibility" as a vehicle for US force projection outside of the United Nations, among other similarly lofty goals.)

All of which is just a major digression from my main point, which is that Bill Clinton is an odious, lying scumbag whose carefully calculated apologies aren't worth the precious air he steals from the rest of us in order to utter them.

— John Caruso

ADDED BY JON: "There Is No End To Bill Clinton's Hilarious Scumbaggery"

Posted at 09:26 PM | Comments (11)