The Lady Speaks

Putting a Face to a Number

How many more?

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinal, via Question Girl:

PLANTATION — In one more day, he would have turned 24. In three more months, he would have gone home to witness the birth of his first child.

But a roadside explosive killed Army Sgt. Michael Rowe on Tuesday in Rutbah, Iraq, where he was escorting a supply convoy. According to the Defense Department, Rowe died in a city so dangerous the military all but sealed it off with a 10-mile long, 7-foot high wall of sand.

Rowe's half-sisters in Plantation, Danielle Sumner-Rowe and Megan Rowe, observed their younger brother's six-month sojourn in Iraq from their computers, corresponding by e-mail and reading his thoughts on his Myspace.com Web page. . The Web page served as a hub for relatives and friends and gave him a platform to share his dreams and vent the frustrations of being 7,000 miles away from his parents; his wife, Rebecca, and their unborn daughter, Nevaeh, in New Port Richey.

"I miss my beautiful wife who I have abandoned when she needs me most," Michael Rowe wrote in a Jan. 29 posting. "She is pregnant with our first child and I won't be there for a sec until she has the baby. No singing or reading to her belly, no getting all those crazy things she wants at night."

[snip] 

Rebecca Rowe gathered with relatives at her husband's New Port Richey home Thursday, where they watched old home videos. She married Michael Rowe two years ago and expected him to be sent to Iraq at anytime. But it didn't prepare her for when he left last year.

Despite the mounting losses in Iraq — 2,326 military men and women have been killed there as of Wednesday — he reassured her and remained resolute about his purpose through e-mails and postings.

She recalled talking to him via an Internet Web camera during stays in Kuwait.

"He was just so happy to see me and he asked me to stand up so he could see his baby girl," she said by phone.

[snip] 

Michael Rowe last visited his Myspace.com Web page on Monday. Had he logged in Tuesday, he would have seen messages from friends, loved ones and his wife wishing him a happy 24th birthday.

"Hey sweetheart. I know you will be on the road for your birthday, but I hope it is good anyways. I miss you so much," Rebecca Rowe wrote. "I am already 6 months (pregnant), and that means you will be home in 3!!!!! I can't wait for the three of us to be together."

March 31, 2006 Posted by | Bush, Iraq, Politics, Terrorism, US Military, War | Leave a comment

Friday Anti-War Song

War Child — The Cranberries

Who will save the war child baby?
Who controls the key?
The web we weave is thick and sordid,
Fine by me.

At times of war we're all the losers,
There's no victory.
We shoot to kill and kill your lover,
Fine by me.

War child, victim of political pride.
Plant the seed, territorial greed.
Mind the war child,
We should mind the war child.

I spent last winter in New York,
And came upon a man.
He was sleeping on the streets and homeless,
He said, "I fought in Vietnam."

Beneath his shirt he wore the mark,
He bore the mark with pride.
A two inch deep incision carved,
Into his side.

War child, victim of political pride.
Plant the seed, territorial greed.
Mind the war child,
We should mind the war child.

Who's the loser now? Who's the loser now?
We're all the losers now. We're all the losers now.

War child.

March 31, 2006 Posted by | Bush, Government, Music, Protest, War | Leave a comment

Activists=Terrorists?

FnB.jpgWhich ones are terrorists?terrorist.jpg

Which ones are the FBI watching?

 

From the LA Times: (h/t Tennessee Guerilla Women)

The FBI, while waging a highly publicized war against terrorism, has spent resources gathering information on antiwar and environmental protesters and on activists who feed vegetarian meals to the homeless, the agency's internal memos show.

[snip]

The FBI's encounters with activists are described in hundreds of pages of documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act after agents visited several activists before the 2004 political conventions. Details have steadily trickled out over the last year, but newly released documents provide a fuller view of some FBI probes.

"Any definition of terrorism that would include someone throwing a bottle or rock through a window during an antiwar demonstration is dangerously overbroad," ACLU staff attorney Ben Wizner said. "The FBI will have its hands full pursuing antiwar groups instead of truly dangerous organizations."

[snip]

"They don't know where Osama bin Laden is, but they're spending money watching people like me," said environmental activist Kirsten Atkins. Her license plate number showed up in an FBI terrorism file after she attended a protest against the lumber industry in Colorado Springs in 2002.

[snip]

An FBI counterterrorism official showed the class, at the University of Texas in Austin, 35 slides listing militia, neo-Nazi and Islamist groups. Senior Special Agent Charles Rasner said one slide, labeled "Anarchism," was a federal analyst's list of groups that people intent on terrorism might associate with.

The list included Food Not Bombs, which mainly serves vegetarian food to homeless people, and — with a question mark next to it — Indymedia, a collective that publishes what it calls radical journalism online. Both groups are among the numerous organizations affiliated with anarchists and anti-globalization protests, where there has been some violence.

Elizabeth Wagoner said she was one of the few students who objected to the groups' inclusion on the list. "My friends do Indymedia," she said. "My friends aren't terrorists."

March 31, 2006 Posted by | Constitution, Crime, National Security, Protest, Terrorism | 5 Comments

John Dean to Testify at Censure Hearing

John Dean, Richard Nixon's White House Counsel, is expected to testify at the censure hearings today. Dean spent four months in prison for his part in the Watergate scandal.

Watergate, for those who've lived under rocks for the past 30-odd years, refers to the break-in of the Watergate Hotel, which exposed secret, illegal wiretapping authorized by a Republican President.

Nixon was accused of using the wiretaps to spy on enemies of his administration, under the guise of 'protecting national security'. Nixon also claimed inherent wartime powers under Article II of the Constitution.

From the AP:

The title of Dean’s 2004 book, “Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush,” made his view of the administration clear even before the wiretapping program became public.

After The New York Times revealed the program in December, Dean wrote that “Bush may have outdone Nixon” and be worthy not just of censure but impeachment.

“Nixon’s illegal surveillance was limited; Bush’s, it is developing, may be extraordinarily broad in scope,” Dean wrote in a column for FindLaw.com in December.

[snip] 

Dean was summoned to the hearing by Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., the author of a resolution to censure, or officially scold, Bush. The measure would condemn Bush’s “unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining the court orders required” by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Republicans planned ways to mock the censure effort as a partisan stunt.

“This resolution puts Senate Democrats in the unfortunate position of looking like they are not serious about the war on terror, while the president is doing everything possible within the law to protect the American people,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Sen. Cornyn, I don't expect you to actually understand this, but the President has broken the law. He has violated the Constitution. He has said as much, and said he will continue breaking the law and ignoring the Constitution of the United States. 

What good does it do to continue to fight the terrorists who 'hate our freedoms,' if the President and his party plan on circumventing the very document that gives us our freedoms?

Privately, Democrats in the House and Senate have said that embracing a censure resolution before the facts are known would damage their credibility this election year.

For his part, Feingold has accused those Democrats who have not embraced his proposal of cowering.

Feingold isn't the only one accusing Democrats of being spineless, cowering jellyfish. The American people are also.  Feingold has created a perfect Catch-22 for Democratic senators, telling them, "Put up, or shut up."

Do they take a stand and say the President broke the law? Or do they continue playing footsie with a scandal-ridden, Republican-dominated Congress? 

March 31, 2006 Posted by | Bush, Congress, Constitution, Democrats, Government, Law, Politics | Leave a comment

Obscene Gesture or Not?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's gesture has been closely scrutinized by many. Was it obscene or not? (The Boston Herald has a photo taken at the time.)

Scalia, naturally, says no. (But would he admit it, if it were?) Others of Italian ancestry say it is, without a doubt, especially when taken in conjuction with the word he used to accompany it.

I didn't really know, so I called on a local expert – my step-dad, Glenn. Actually, he's the only real Italian I know.

Glenn spent his early years in New York City, before moving to Weehauken NJ. He was an Italian-Catholic who walked to elementary school with a bicycle chain and a knife for protection. Apparently, Catholic school kids in their uniforms were (perhaps still are) targets for the local toughs, especially in a heavily-Italian neighborhood in New York.

Glenn once commented that many of the kids he went to school with had "Family" connections – and are in the "Family" now….and he's not talking relatives. So, I decided I wasn't likely to find a better expert on short notice.

Not wanting to be offensive, especially to someone I like, but who also knows people in the Mafia, I made my sister call. (Yeah, bravery…not my strong suit. :) ) She, also not exactly sure how to approach this, took the easy way out and made our mom ask.

His take: You betcha! While the word used has a variety of spellings, the word combined with the gesture is equal to flipping someone the bird while saying, "F**k you!"

So – we have a supposedly-devout Supreme Court Justice who took Communion and then used an obscene gesture accompanied by a dirty word, while standing in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Somehow, this doesn't surprise me, coming from a man who is an avowed friend of the same Vice-President who stood in the Capitol and told a senator to 'f**k himself".

Republicans and thugs….it's getting hard to tell the difference these days.

March 31, 2006 Posted by | Courts, Law, Religion, Scalia | Leave a comment

But, Mom, it’s all Saddam’s fault!

Has El Commandante….'Chokes on Pretzel'…President Bush ever taken responsibility for anything?

His speech yesterday sounded familiar to many parents out there. (Thankfully, I only had to read it. That was painful enough.)

I used to hear the same sort of excuses about ten years ago, when my kids were little. (Names changed to protect the guilty.)

"Who broke the lamp in the living room?" I ask.

"What lamp?" said the nine-year old Son.

"I didn't know the lamp was broken," said the six-year-old son.

"I think the dog broke it," said the three-year-old Only Daughter, "but it could have been [Son #2]."

"Nuh-uh! It was already broken when I got there!"

Always, always, you'll hear, "Not me, I don't know nothin'' followed soon after by "blame someone else". From there, you usually start to reach the truth, because they know that you know that they're desperate.

In this case, the truth was the children decided to play kickball in the living room, and Son #1 hit a homerun off the lamp. (But it was Son #2's fault too, according to Son #1, because if he'd just caught the ball, it wouldn't have hit the lamp.) And the children, knowing their beloved mother, knew it didn't matter who actually broke the lamp, because they'd all get in trouble for playing kickball – again – in the living room.

It's not lying, so much as it's a game, testing a child's evasive manuevers and a parent's skill at interrogation. It's also early training for the teen years: "How did that dent get there?! It's a brand-new car, and no, the dent was not there when I bought it!"

Normally, though, kids grow out of it. They get in trouble for telling fibs, they're called to account for their actions in school. They learn to accept responsiblity for bad decisions, and they learn that they're expected to make corrections or amends, as the case may be.

President Bush is – no surprise – about 45 years behind the curve.

March 30, 2006 Posted by | Bush, Children, Government, War | Leave a comment

Feel safe, Senators?

Okay, just when you think the incompetence of government and bureaucratic bungling just couldn't get much worse than it has… 

If my area doesn't have a plan to deal with a terror attack, (we do, by the way) it isn't so much of a big deal. The tallest building is a 10-story teaching hospital. Terrorists who find this place are using an extremely out-of-date map. It's that small.

But when an place that hosts the bulls-eye of the terrorist dartboard still doesn't have a comprehensive response plan, and is "still not ready for a terror attack," even after experiencing 9-11, that's frightening. 

Eric Weiss, Washington Post:

Nearly five years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Washington region still lacks a strategic plan to guide preparations for any future attacks or to effectively spend hundreds of millions of homeland security dollars, federal and local officials told a U.S. Senate panel yesterday.

The lack of a comprehensive regionwide communication system was repeatedly cited by senators as a case of poor planning and coordination. For example, Prince George's County does not have radios that are fully compatible with neighboring jurisdictions.

An oversight panel for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs took emergency response officials from the District, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government to task for bureaucratic foot-dragging and a lack of agreement on a long-term plan for protecting millions of residents in the region.

[snip] 

"What do we have today? What's in place today?'' asked Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.).

Local homeland security officials did not give a definitive answer. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, they said, strategies have been developed that make the region better prepared to deal with attacks, but they realize that more needs to be done.

[snip] 

Senators questioned why the Capital Region Homeland Security Strategic Plan has not been completed. The plan was promised last September but will not be available until August at the earliest, officials said. The plan would establish goals and priorities for enhancing disaster response and for efficiently spending federal preparedness dollars.

[snip] 

Edward D. Reiskin, the District's deputy mayor for public safety and justice, assured the panel that local jurisdictions are prepared to respond to individual emergencies.

"If a big, bad thing happens, we have a response plan,'' he said after the hearing. "That's not at all what is the issue here. It's about strategic planning and about what is the vision.''

[snip] 

But a detailed strategic plan is still vital, experts said. The problems encountered during the Katrina disaster highlighted the need for detailed evacuation plans, especially when many jurisdictions and agencies are involved.

In testimony yesterday, William O. Jenkins Jr., director of homeland security issues for the Government Accountability Office, was asked whether local officials can really know whether they are adequately prepared without such a plan.

"In a word, no,'' he said. [emphasis mine]

March 30, 2006 Posted by | Government, Homeland Security, National Security, Terrorism | Leave a comment

Jill Carroll Released

Update: (8:50a EDT) From CNN:

American hostage Jill Carroll, a freelance journalist released Thursday in Iraq after nearly three months in captivity, said she was "treated very well" while she was held.

"They never said they would hit me. They never threatened me in any way," she said in a TV interview after her release.

[snip]

Wearing glasses and a hijab scarf, she said, "They allowed me once to see TV. They also allowed me once to read the paper but it wasn't enough to know what's going on in the outside world."

Throughout her ordeal, she said, "I was allowed to move in a small space."

* * * * 

American Jill Carroll, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor was released this morning after nearly three months in captivity.

From MSNBC.com:

Police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said Carroll, 28, was handed over to the Iraqi Islamic Party office in Amiriya, western Baghdad, by an unknown group. She was later turned over to the Americans and was believed to be in the heavily fortified Green Zone, he said.

“She was released this morning, she’s talked to her father and she’s fine,” said David Cook, Washington bureau chief of The Christian Science Monitor.

[snip]

Carroll, a freelance reporter for the Monitor, was kidnapped on Jan. 7, in Baghdad’s western Adil neighborhood while going to interview Sunni Arab politician Adnan al-Dulaimi. Her translator was killed in the attack about 300 yards from al-Dulaimi’s office.

Her captors, calling themselves the Revenge Brigades, had demanded the release of all women detainees in Iraq by Feb. 26 and said Carroll would be killed if that didn’t happen. The date came and went with no word about her welfare.

The United States Embassy in Baghdad said it could not confirm Carroll’s release.

March 30, 2006 Posted by | Iraq, Media, Terrorism | Leave a comment

Debt Clock Running Out of Room

Just another thing to thank George W. Bush and the Rubber-Stamp Congress for.

From Yahoo News:

The national debt clock, as it is known, is a big clock. A spot-check last week showed a readout of 8.3 trillion — or more precisely 8,310,200,545,702 — dollars … and counting.

But it's not big enough.

Sometime in the next two years, the total amount of US government borrowing is going to break through the 10-trillion-dollar mark and, lacking space for the extra digit such a figure would require, the clock is in danger of running itself into obsolescence.

The clock's owner, real estate developer Douglas Durst, knew such a problem could arise but hadn't counted on it so soon.

"We really expected it to be quite some time," Durst told AFP. "But now, with the pace of debt growth only increasing, we're looking at maybe two years and certainly before President (George W.) Bush leaves office in 2009."


March 29, 2006 Posted by | Bush, Congress, Economy, Federal Debt, Government | Leave a comment

Things in Iraq are just fine….really

While George Bush sleeps well and dreams of being remembered as the President who brought stability to the Middle East, reality continues to assert itself. 

From Riverbend:

[…] E. was sitting at the other end of the living room, taking apart a radio he later wouldn’t be able to put back together. I called him over with the words, “Come here and read this- I’m sure I misunderstood…”

He stood in front of the television and watched the words about corpses and Americans and puppets scroll by and when the news item I was watching for appeared, I jumped up and pointed. E. and I read it in silence and E. looked as confused as I was feeling.

The line said:

وزارة الدفاع تدعو المواطنين الى عدم الانصياع لاوامر دوريات الجيش والشرطة الليلية اذا لم تكن برفقة قوات التحالف العاملة في تلك المنطقة

The translation:

“The Ministry of Defense requests that civilians do not comply with the orders of the army or police on nightly patrols unless they are accompanied by coalition forces working in that area.” [emphasis mine]

That’s how messed up the country is at this point.

[snip] 

The cousin sighed heavily and told us…he was going to check the morgue. A month before, his wife’s uncle had been taken away from a mosque during prayer- they’ve yet to find him. Every two days, someone from the family goes to the morgue to see if his body was brought in. “Pray I don’t find him… or rather… I just- we hate the uncertainty.” My cousin sighed heavily and got out of the car. I said a silent prayer as he crossed the street and disappeared into the crowd.

E. and I waited patiently for H., who was still inside the college and for L. who was in the morgue. The minutes stretched and E. and I sat silently- smalltalk seeming almost blasphemous under the circumstances. L. came out first. I watched him tensely and found myself chewing away at my lower lip, “Did he find him? Inshalla he didn’t find him…” I said to no one in particular. As he got closer to the car, he shook his head. His face was immobile and grim, but behind the grim expression, we could see relief, “He’s not there. Hamdulilah [Thank God].”

“Hamdulilah” E. and I repeated the words in unison.

WE all looked back at the morgue. Most of the cars had simple, narrow wooden coffins on top of them, in anticipation of the son or daughter or brother. One frenzied woman in a black abaya was struggling to make her way inside, two relatives holding her back. A third man was reaching up to untie the coffin tied to the top of their car.

“See that woman- they found her son. I saw them identifying him. A bullet to the head.” The woman continued to struggle, her legs suddenly buckling under her, her wails filling the afternoon, and although it was surprisingly warm that day, I pulled at my sleeves, trying to cover my suddenly cold fingers.

A collection of posts from her blog were made into a book, Baghdad Burning, and published last year. The book was recently nominated for the $50,000 BBC4 Samuel Johnson Prize, the 'most lucrative literary award for non-fiction'. 

March 29, 2006 Posted by | Blogs, Iraq, War | Leave a comment

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