Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Look, Christians want me to leave my wife!
I keep getting these spams -- what is Jesus trying to say to me? Should I abandon my happy marriage with Marge in search of Christian singles? What the fuck? (or, should I say, "do they"?) And -- is that woman hugging another woman? What's up with this spam campaign, Oh Lord? Oh, I'm so confused...

Soap on a Rope: Libby Takes the Bullet; Cheney, Rove Dance

Well, I've shied away from the current news here for some time, if only to keep the blog from living up to its title too much. But the news of
  • Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's conviction
  • is too much to pass unnoticed. Many of us out here in voting America have been watching and following this closely since the initial outing of Valerie Plame's CIA status.

    Yes, Cheney and Rove cakewalked -- Libby's dangling, appeal to follow -- but the revelations of Cheney's complete culpability in the treasonous outing of a CIA agent's identity out of sheer political vindictiveness is now public record -- and in Cheney's own handwriting.

    The man is too contemptible for words, the outing of the corruption of the Vice Presidency ("the most powerful Vice President in U.S. history" has been a frequently heard assessment the past two days) apparent. Cheney's vicious betrayal of his oath of office, the power of his position, and utter contempt for the American people and those who serve in the intelligence community outstrips even Spiro Agnew's absolutely shameful abuses of power.

    That this verdict arrives in the wake of the latest series of stories concerning the neglect and abuse of Iraq War vets (via the Washington Post's investigation and stories about the conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center) further proves the rampant callousness and disregard for the most fundamental of human realities demonstrated time and time again by this current President and Administration. They are contemptible leaders in every arena of power they have claimed as their own, and the insanity of maintaining any further patience or tolerance of their horrific abuses, or for their apologists, could not be clearer.

    The local scene is catching the shock waves, as every corner of the country must.

    This, from The Brattleboro Reformer of Brattleboro, VT:

    Panel hears from injured vets about squalor at Walter Reed
    By Evan Lehmann, Reformer Washington Bureau
    Brattleboro Reformer

    Tuesday, March 6
    WASHINGTON -- He returned from Iraq with one eye, one ear and the idea he'd recuperate somewhere other than the "ghetto."

    That's how Spc. Jeremy Duncan described his room in Building 18, a former motel adopted as an outpatient dorm by Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

    The building is the symbol of squalor in an unfolding scandal that has the Army on its heels. Building 18 has mold, holes, mice and cockroaches. Its inhabitants, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, face long delays in receiving health care.

    "It was unforgivable," Duncan told a congressional panel holding a hearing at the hospital Monday. "It wasn't fit for anybody to live like that."

    Staff Sgt. J. Daniel Shannon was shot in the head by an insurgent's AK-47. The blunt military careerist suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost his left eye. The attack came in November 2004, outside Ramadi.
    Three days later, he arrived at Walter Reed for inpatient care. He was discharged two days later, given a photocopied map of the sprawling facility and told to bunk in Building 18.

    He got lost along the way, disoriented by the prescription drugs meant to soothe the bullet wound he suffered less than a week earlier.

    Later, the hospital lost him.

    "I sat in my room for another couple of weeks wondering when someone would contact me about continuing my medical care," Shannon said.

    They never did. It was up to him.

    More than two years later, he's still a patient, still waiting for plastic surgery and a prosthetic eye to fill the socket behind his black patch.

    Rep. Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat and member of the Oversight and Government Reform's subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs, which held the hearing, said the hospital's failures could be the "tip of the iceberg."

    Welch, who requested that the hearing be held at Walter Reed, questioned Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, who oversaw the hospital for two years until 2004, about reports that patients were retaliated against for revealing the squalid conditions at the hospital.

    Soon after The Washington Post exposed the conditions, patients were required to fall into formation around dawn each morning.

    Kiley denied it was retaliation, saying Col. Roland Hamilton required the morning formation so patients could air their concerns to him directly.

    "He was not in any way threatening them," Kiley said.

    Welch also suggested that the Army might have fired the wrong man: Maj. Gen. George Weightman, who was relieved of duty as the hospital's commander last week.

    Weightman worked at the hospital for six months.

    Welch asked if the conditions at the hospital "have been in existence for over six months?"

    "I can't say right now whether this was a short-term or long-term problem," Kiley said.

    Shannon, however, knows his stay has been too long.

    "I want to leave this place," he said. "I've seen so many soldiers get so frustrated with the process that they will sign anything presented (to) them just so they can get on with their lives."

    In many cases, that means they forfeit disability benefits.

    You got that? "Forfeit[ing] disability benefits."

    This is monstrous on more levels than one can comprehend

    The war machine, ramped up on a bed of lies and deceptions, pours patriotic young Americans voluntarily serving into the the jaws of man-made hell, spits them back dismembered, traumatized, in pieces -- and buries them alive in a fresh hell of this government's making. To escape, the young soldiers who have given their all will forfeit their disability benefits -- this is criminal.

    War crimes, perpetrated upon our own military by our own leaders.

    On the local level, more and more Vermonters are finding their voices to speak out against the ongoing corruption and abuses of power. HomeyM of Jamaica sent out this email to his compadres:

    "I was very proud of my town today, Town Meeting day in Jamaica.

    There were two resolutions offered, both of which I thought would elicit struggle and debate in a town and state that are after all traditionally Republican (albeit Vermont Republican).

    One resolution called for bringing the troops in Iraq home now. The second called for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney for lying to get us into war, condoning torture, and taking away our Constitutional freedoms by listening in to phone conversations without a warrant. In this kind of situation of introducing a national (not local) matter, it was almost certain that someone would rise to complain that this is "not something we should be discussing at a Town meeting."

    With just one speaker on behalf of each resolution, and NO ONE rising to oppose them, not a single word of opposition, the first passed quickly and UNANIMOUSLY. (For a second I thought I was dreaming.) The second by voice vote had about 95 AYES and only five NAYS. Hooray for Jamaica!

    The night before last, in Brattleboro, Cindy Sheehan had asked us to lead the nation in calling for impeachment. Today we responded, as did some twenty other towns in Vermont. Many of those at this meeting, remember, are natives who have traditionally supported Republican leadership. And these are not people who will suppress their opinion if they disagree with you. Of that you may be sure.

    I just didn't think it was going to be this easy. My fellow citizens surprised me today, in a very positive way."

    Last year, at Marlboro Town Meeting, we had already done the same, as had a clutch of other Vermont towns.

    To what end?

    More on all this, later --

    Cine-Ketchup, Wednesday Edition:

    * Grbavica (2006) - When uneasy pick-up lines like, “I’m sure I know you” leads to the commonalities of “Maybe you go to postmortem identifications?”, we aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. We’re in Sarajevo, recovering from one of the most brutal wars in the European theater in the late 20th Century. Welcome to Grbavica -- the film, a time, place, and state of mind. This modern metropolitan European city is haunted by fresh memories of the Bosnian conflict. The wounds are deep and fresh: in the first scene, an innocent bout of tickling between mother and daughter grows untenable when daughter pins her mother’s arms; only later do we realize almost any human touch or intimacy evokes the rape camps. The echoes are everywhere: talk of mass graves still being disinterred and the search for missing parents, partners, friends or family; angry, outcast teenagers (some the offspring of the rape camp experiences) bond over missing fathers and their affiliations (“he’s a shaheed”); songs sung on buses stir memories; survivor support groups tied to monthly state stipends prompt unexpected, utterly human expressions of fear, despair and trauma; male bar patrons could be innocents, sympathizers, survivors or former brutalizers. We experience all this through the day-to-day life of traumatized Esma Halilovic (Mirjana Karanovic) and her daughter Sara (Luna Mijovic). The immediate tension between them is Esma’s inability to come up with the money necessary to Sara joining her school’s upcoming class trip; if Esma can provide certification of Sara’s shaheed parentage, there is no fee. It’s the kind of economic desperation rich people never know, and may never understand: for want of 200 euro for her daughter’s class trip, Esma’s life, held together by the most tenuous of threads, is unraveling.

    From this seemingly inconsequential situation, writer/director Jasmila Zbanic delineates with increasing power the many fault lines between generations -- each struggling with (unspoken) shock waves and wounds, emotional and physical -- gender, class, affluence, unemployment, poverty and the absolute invisibility of all these all-too-real conflicts, rendering any one of them a near impossibility to deal with. Adding to the quiet dread is the fact that any in Esma’s circles -- work, acquaintances, anyone she has to deal with in any capacity -- who did not experience the worst of the Bosnian War are ignorant or indifferent to her plight or that of every survivor; worst yet, others still prey upon the survivors’ situation. Dangerous underground black markets thrive, assassination is an ongoing job opportunity, violence is central to male life (even Sara’s teen beau has a handgun), but the veneer of life-as-usual is sustained. These tensions conflate normal parent/teenager tensions, further tangled with the truth of Sara’s conception.

    A precious few films or TV programs dealing with the current post-Bosnian War conditions exist, much less reach American viewers: the most recent installment of the British series Prime Suspect (6) grounded its script in the conflict’s wake, tied to Bosnian War atrocities spilling over into England. Grbavica is a potent drama of Bosnian life in the 21st Century, eschewing melodramatic or genre conventions that trivialize the harsh realities, rendered all the more terrible for their casual banality -- and its final shots moving for their simplicity and honesty.

    I've gotta get to work -- another busy day at CCS --
    have a great Wednesday, one and all!

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