Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This is my friend Pape.

This is one of the men that made my stay in Rufisque, Senegal tolerable.  It is very difficult to maintain a healthy composure when you have noone to easily communicate with.  I can see how solitary confinement is so devastationg.  Although I had family around me all day everyday, it was difficult to communicate with them.  I’m a dumb American.  I only speak one language fluently.  The language I speak fluently is not one of the four or five languages that my family in Senegal speaks.  Each day I wondered when my mind will “click” and suddenly understand what everyone was saying around me.

It didn’t happen.  Thank GOD that this Pape was around the house most days.  If he hadn’t visited, I’d have gone crazy very easy.

In this picture, you may recognize the hanging phone cord from a series of pictures taken on that wall.  Here is another picture of that wall I posted earlier.  Aminta, in red phone series.

image

Posted by SPN on 10/31 at 12:32 PM
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Friday, October 27, 2006

Gov Bush debates Pres Bush

Posted by SPN on 10/27 at 08:49 AM
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Thursday, October 26, 2006

CDC Warning

The Centers for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of Sexually Transmitted Disease. The disease is contracted through dangerous and high-risk behavior. The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim, pronounced “gonna re-elect ‘em.” Many victims contracted it in 2004, after having been screwed for four years.

Cognitive characteristics of individuals infected include: anti-social personality disorders; delusions of grandeur with messianic overtones; extreme cognitive dissonance; inability to incorporate new information; pronounced xenophobia, homophobia, and paranoia; inability to accept responsibility for one’s own actions; cowardice masked by misplaced bravado; uncontrolled facial smirking; ignorance of geography, history, and the correct pronunciation of “nuclear;” tendencies towards evangelical theocracy; and, categorical all-or-nothing behavior.

Naturalists and epidemiologists are amazed at how quick-spreading and destructive this disease is after originating only a few years ago from a Bush found in Texas.

Posted by Nuttshell on 10/26 at 04:32 PM
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Friday, October 20, 2006

Why I Gave Up On Hip-Hop

SPN, I’ll be interested to see what you have to say about this commentary from last Sunday’s Washington Post.

By Lonnae O’Neal Parker
Sunday, October 15, 2006; B01

My 12-year-old daughter, Sydney, and I were in the car not long ago when she turned the radio to a popular urban contemporary station. An unapproved station. A station that might play rap music. “No way, Syd, you know better,” I said, so Sydney changed the station, then pouted.

“Mommy, can I just say something?” she asked. “You think every time you hear a black guy’s voice it’s automatically going to be something bad. Are you against hip-hop?”

Her words slapped me in the face. In a sense, she was right. I haven’t listened to radio hip-hop for years. I have no clue who is topping the charts and I can’t name a single rap song in play.

But I swear it hasn’t always been that way.

My daughter can’t know that hip-hop and I have loved harder and fallen out further than I have with any man I’ve ever known.

That my decision to end our love affair had come only after years of disappointment and punishing abuse. After I could no longer nod my head to the misogyny or keep time to the vapid materialism of another rap song. After I could no longer sacrifice my self-esteem or that of my two daughters on an altar of dope beats and tight rhymes.

No, darling, I’m not anti-hip-hop, I told her. And it’s true, I still love hip-hop. It’s just that our relationship has gotten very complicated.

When those of us who grew up with rap saw signs that it was turning ugly, we turned away. We premised our denial on a sort of good-black-girl exceptionalism: They came for the skeezers but I didn’t speak up because I’m no skeezer, they came for the freaks, but I said nothing because I’m not a freak. They came for the bitches and the hos and the tricks. And by the time we realized they were talking about bitches from 8 to 80, our daughters and our mommas and their own damn mommas, rap music had earned the imprimatur of MTV and Martha Stewart and even the Pillsbury Doughboy.

And sometimes it can seem like now, there is nobody left who is willing to speak up.

I remember the day hip-hop found me. The year was 1979 and although “Rapper’s Delight” wasn’t the first rap song, it was the first rap song to make it all the way from the South Bronx to Hazel Crest, Ill.

I was 12, the same age my oldest daughter is now, when hip-hop began to shape my politics and perceptions and aesthetics. It gave me a meter for my thoughts and bent my mind toward metaphor and rhyme. I couldn’t sing a lick, but didn’t hip-hop give me the beginnings of a voice. About the time that rap music hit Hazel Crest, all the black kids sat in the front of my school bus, all the white kids sat in back, and the loudest of each often argued about what we were going to listen to on the bus radio or boombox. Music was code for turf and race in the middle-class, mostly-white-but-heading-black suburbs south of Chicago.

One day, our bus driver tried to defuse tensions by disallowing both. Left without music, some of the black kids started singing “Rapper’s Delight.” Within a couple of lines, we all joined in:

Now what you hear is not a test

I’m rappin’ to the beat.

Then the white kids started chanting: Dis-co sucks, dis-co sucks, dis-co sucks, dis-co sucks , repeating the white-backlash, anti-rap mantra of the era.

The white kids got louder: DIS-CO SUCKS, DIS-CO SUCKS, DIS-CO SUCKS, DIS-CO SUCKS.

So we got louder, too:

YA SEE, I AM WONDER MIKE AND I LIKE TO SAY HELLO

TO THE BLACK, TO THE WHITE, THE RED AND THE BROWN

THE PURPLE AND YELLOW.

Then the white kids started yelling until their faces suffused with color.

And so we started yelling rhymes that I still know to this day, some of which my kids know and, I bet, so do some of the kids of those white kids who screamed at us from the back of my junior high school bus, raging against change, raging against black people, or, who knows, maybe just not appreciating our musical stylings.

SO I RAPPED TO THE BEAT LIKE I NEVER DID BEFORE.

We rhymed and the white kids disappeared before our eyes because we were in another world—transported by the collective sound of our own raised voices, transfixed by our newfound ability to drown out their nullification.

We felt ourselves united, with the power of a language we didn’t begin to understand. “Rap at its best can refashion the world—or at least the way we see it—and shape it in our own image,” said Adam Bradley, a literature professor at Claremont McKenna College who is working on a book about hip-hop poetics. It has the capacity “to give a voice that’s distinctively our own and to do it with the kind of confidence and force we might not otherwise have.”

I grew older, and my love affair with the music, swagger and semiotics of hip-hop continued. There was Kurtis Blow, Melle Mel and the seminal Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five:

Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge

I’m tryin’ not to lose my head.

I learned all the rhymes played on black radio, because do you remember when MTV wouldn’t touch black music at all? I got to college and started getting my beats underground, which is where I stayed to find my hip-hop treasures. Public Enemy rapped “Fight the Power” and it could have been the soundtrack to CNN footage of Tiananmen Square or the fall of the Berlin Wall:

Got to give us what we want

Gotta give us what we need

Our freedom of speech is freedom or death

We got to fight the powers that be.

I was young and hungry and hip-hop was smart, and like Neneh Cherry said, we were raw like sushi back then, sensing we were onto something big, not realizing how easily it could get away from us.

* * *

Of course, the rhymes were sexy, too, part of a long black tradition starting with the post-emancipation blues. It was music that borrowed empathy and passion from exultations of the sacred, to try to score a bit of heaven in secular places.

It was college, and in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the post-civil rights, post-sexual revolution, newly grown hip-hop generation imagined that we had shed our momma’s chastity-equals-black-uplift strictures anyway. So when MC Lyte rapped, “I ain’t afraid of the sweat,” well, you know, we waved our hands in the air. Besides, it was underground music, adult music, part of a wide range of expression, and it’s not like we worried that it could ever show up on the radio.

Hip-hop was still largely about the break-beat and dance moves and brothers who battled solely on wax. It was Whodini, Eric B. & Rakim, Dana Dane, EPMD, A Tribe Called Quest. And always and forever, Lonnae Loves Cool James. I knew all LL Cool J’s b-sides and used to sleep under a poster of him that hung on my wall. I still have a picture of the two of us that was taken one Howard homecoming weekend.

And if, gradually, we noticed a trend, more violence, more misogyny, more materialism, more hostile sexual stereotyping, a general constricting of subject matter, for a very long time we let it slide.

In 1988, EPMD rapped about a woman named Jane:

So PMD (Yo?) Why don’t you do me a favor?

Chill with the bitch and I’ll hook you up later

She’s fly, haircut like Anita Baker

Looked up and down and said “Hmm, I’ll take her.”

But by last spring, it was Atlanta-based rapper T.I.:

I ain’t hangin’ with my niggaz

Pullin’ no triggaz

I’ll be back to the trap, but for now

I’m chillin’ with my bitch today, I’m chillin’ with my bitch today.

Nearly 20 years later and T.I. can’t even be bothered to give his “bitch” a name.

We were so happy black men were speaking their truth, “we’ve gone too long without challenging them,” as Danyel Smith, former editor of Vibe magazine, put it. And now, perhaps, hip-hop is too far gone.

* * *

At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, rappers Snoop Doggy Dog and 50 Cent embellished their performance of the song “P.I.M.P.” by featuring black women on leashes being walked onstage. This past August, MTV2 aired an episode of the cartoon “Where My Dogs At,” which had Snoop again leading two black bikini-clad women around on leashes. They squatted on their hands and knees, scratched themselves and defecated.

The president of the network, a black woman, defended this as satire.

Hip-hop had long since gone mainstream and commercial. It was Diddy, white linen suits and Cristal champagne in the Hamptons. And it was for white suburban boys as well as black club kids. And it now promoted a sexual aesthetic, a certain body type, a certain look. Southern rappers had even popularized a kind of strip-club rap making black women indistinguishable from strippers.

I don’t know the day things changed for me. When the music began to seem so obviously divorced from any truth and, just as unforgivably, devoid of most creativity. I don’t know when my love turned to contempt and my contempt to fury. Maybe it happened as my children got older and I longed for music that would speak to them the way hip-hop had once spoken to me.

Maybe as the coolest black boys kept getting shot on the streets while the coolest rappers droned: AK-47 now nigga, stop that.

Maybe as the madness made me want to holler back: “Niggas” can’t stop AK-47s , and damn you for saying so.

Last year, talk show host Kelly Ripa gushed to 50 Cent, a former drug dealer turned rapper, about how important his movie “Get Rich or Die Tryin’ “ was while black women around the country were left to explain to their own black sons, “ Sometimes, darling, black boys get shot nine times and they don’t live to brag about it on the mike . “

And a few weeks ago, watching the Disney Channel cartoon short “Fabulizer,” I seethed when the little white character lamented that his “thug pose” wasn’t working.

While the mainstream culture celebrates the pimped-out, thugged-up, cool-by-proxy mirage of commercial rap, those of us who just love black people have to be a little more discriminating. “Sometimes,” writes sociologist Mary Pattillo-McCoy, “when you dress like a gangsta, talk like a gangsta and rap like a gangsta often enough, you are a gangsta.”

My husband, Ralph, and I try to tell Sydney that rap music used to be fun. It used to call girls by prettier names. We were ladies and cuties, honeys and hotties, and we all just felt like one nation under the groove. Sydney, I tell her, I want you to have all the creativity, all the bite, all the rhythms of black rhyme, but I can’t let you internalize toxic messages, no matter how cool some millionaire black rappers tell you they are.

Sydney nods, but I don’t know if she fully understands.

* * *

I was born to be the Lyte

To give the spark in the dark

Spread the truth to the youth

The ghetto Joan of Arc

-- MC Lyte

Last spring, I got together with some other moms from the first generation of hip-hop. We decided to distribute free T-shirts with words that counter some of the most violent, anti-intellectual and degrading cultural messages: You look better without the bullet holes. Put the guns down. Or my favorite: You want this? Graduate! We called it the Hip-Hop Love Project.

Others are trying their own versions of taking back the music. In Baltimore, spoken-word poet Tonya Maria Matthews, aka JaHipster, is launching her own “Groove Squad.” The idea is to get together a couple dozen women to go to clubs prepared to walk off the dance floor en masse if the music is openly offensive or derogatory. “There’s no party without sisters on the dance floor,” she told me. In New York, hip-hop DJ and former model Beverly Bond formed Black Girls Rock! to try to change the portrayal of black women in the music and influence the women who are complicit in it. “We don’t want to be hypersexualized,” said Joan Morgan, a hip-hop writer and part of the group, but we don’t want to be erased, either.

Finally, it feels like we’ve gotten back to what black women are supposed to have always known: that it is better to fight than to lie down.

My daughter says I don’t like black voices and I could weep that it’s come to this. But instead I listen to the most conscious hip-hop that comes my way: Common, Talib Kweli, the Roots, KOS, Kanye West, who blends the commercial with commentary. I close my eyes to listen as Mos Def says:

My Umi said shine your light on the world.

And still, always and forever, Lonnae Loves Cool James.

I keep my CD player filled with old-school tracks and I fill my kids’ heads with the coolest, most conscious, most bang-bang the boogie say up jump the boogie songs from when hip-hop and I were young. Sydney says I don’t like black voices and I say: Ax Butta how I zone/ Man, Cleopatra Jones .

I make Sydney listen to songs from when rap said something, but my daughter is 12 and she laughs at me. Rap says something now, Mommy, she says.

Lean wit’ it

Rock wit’ it

Lean wit’ it

Rock wit’ it

She snaps her fingers and I just nod. Change is gonna come. Meanwhile, her song is catchy. And there are no bitches!

At least not in the chorus.

Lonnae O’Neal Parker, a Washington Post staff writer, is author of “I’m Every Woman: Remixed Stories of Marriage, Motherhood and Work” (Amistad/HarperCollins), out in paperback this month.

Posted by Nuttshell on 10/20 at 06:43 PM
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Breach of faith

Former White House insider David Kuo talks about how the Bush administration used its most loyal voters, evangelical Christians, for political gain.
By Alex Koppelman
Salon Magazine http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/10/17/kuo

Oct. 17, 2006 | The No. 2 man in the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives from 2001 to 2003, Christian conservative David Kuo grew disillusioned with the Bush administration’s attempt to solve social problems with large helpings of federally funded religion. In his new book, “Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction,” Kuo tells the story of an administration that used evangelicals for purely political purposes, and that often revealed disdain for the very bloc of voters most responsible for recent Republican success. Kuo, who has also been an aide to William Bennett, an advisor to John Ashcroft, and a speechwriter for Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and Bob Dole (as well as a chronicler of the dot-com bust), claims members of the administration often disparaged fundamentalists in private; Karl Rove, he says, referred to the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives as “the f*cking faith-based initiative.” Kuo says this cynical attitude was reflected in the way the administration actually dealt with evangelical groups, promising sweeping change and billions of dollars and never quite delivering.

Since his book was discussed on MSNBC’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” last week, and since he was interviewed on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Kuo has become a target for the ire of Republicans and Christian conservatives. Focus on the Family’s James Dobson has called “Tempting Faith” a “mix of sour grapes and political timing,” and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told the Washington Post that he “felt sorry” for Kuo. “Once you do something like this,” said Perkins, “you get your 15 minutes in the spotlight, but then after that nobody will touch you.”

Kuo spoke with Salon about his book, his time in the White House, and why he thinks evangelicals should take a break from politics.
In April of 2003 you were diagnosed with, and had successful surgery for, a brain tumor. Did that play any role in your leaving the White House?
I was planning on leaving the White House before any of that happened. It changed me, in a way. I went into a period of deep soul-searching, seeking God. I was, frankly, probably less willing to put up with all the stuff I saw at the White House.

Why did you leave the White House?

I left because my time was done. I left because I’d been there for two and half years and it was just time to go. I talk about in the book that my heart wasn’t in it anymore, and I suppose when your heart isn’t in it it’s time to go. The other reason I left is because I was tired, tired of being someone who supported compassion politically while we weren’t really giving much compassion in terms of dollars and cents and effort.

Why did you decide to write this book?

There’s the personal, the political and the spiritual reason for it. The spiritual reason is that I think Christians need to understand that politicians want them for their votes and not for anything else, and they need to view politicians through the same wholly political lens that the politicians view them. I think Christians have gotten to this point where politics have become a sort of God. The political reason is I hope that it can make a change; I hope that because of this the compassion agenda will receive more attention. The personal reason is I have three very young daughters, and I face my mortality every day—heck, we all do, but I think I have a more acutely aware sense of that—and I want them to know more about their dad’s life, in case when they’re older I’m not there, and in case they’re really bored and someday want to read it.

Obviously, the main topic of discussion about your book has been the administration’s attitude toward the evangelical community, your contention that many members of the Bush team felt disdain for fundamentalists. Can you tell me about what you saw while you were in the administration?

I think the administration’s attitude toward evangelicals was the administration’s attitude toward any other constituent group. They viewed them as necessary, but it wasn’t like they shared any particular affinity for them. I think that’s something Christians need to understand. There’s been this image perpetuated of President Bush as “pastor in chief,” and I think Christians have fallen into that. What they need to understand is that President Bush is a politician, a very good politician. He’s the head of the GOP, he’s the head of government, but he’s not a pastor. I think that this pastoral sense of him that has been perpetuated is preventing Christians from being more critical, objectively critical—in Jesus’ words, “wise as a serpent.” And I also think that it contributes to this sense of political seduction by Christians. When you get to the point where when I mention Jesus people think they know my politics, that I’m pro-life and anti-gay and pro-Iraq war, as opposed to identifying Jesus as someone who will bring life and has good news, I think that’s troubling.

You’re talking about the president as a politician, not a pastor. Do you think that some of his public displays of religion aren’t entirely authentic?

I think it’s a really bad idea to judge someone else’s public displays of religion. In general, I’m not gonna go there.

One of the things that I write is that George W. Bush’s religious orientation was probably among the most closely managed aspects of his public persona. It may be one of the most important things that, from the 2000 campaign on, people have managed. The strategic focus on evangelicals in 2000 was to convince them of George W. Bush as pastor in chief, because as pastor in chief he would be held to a different standard. People give their pastors more slack than their politicians, and I think that’s important to talk about. One of the ways that it was possible was because they shrewdly understood the media, how the media would talk about things and what they would ignore. One of the things I mention in the book is the Saturday night and the Sunday morning he announced for president in 1999 he gave two sermons—two very Christian sermons—in a church in Houston, while everyone was staked out in Austin. Nobody from the national media covered them, which is amazing. It’s amazing that no one would cover something like that.

Why do you think the media didn’t cover the sermons?

Listen, the reality is we used the media, but I don’t know, actually. I think the media can just get in their mind just one or two certain stories, and I know that was true with faith-based. We counted on how the media would report on stories to further our agenda, because we knew that what the media would report on, and wanted to report on, was story lines like “George W. Bush wants to establish theocracy,” “George W. Bush wants to require students to accept Jesus before graduating high school.” I’m obviously being silly, but in some quarters the frenzy was almost like that. But from our perspective, that allowed us to really give messages to our evangelical base, because the more that he was criticized for those sorts of things, the more that the conservative base and the evangelicals would like it. They wanted to see him in those ways. I think in general the media doesn’t get religion, I think that they don’t understand it—not [because of] hostility, more [from] lack of personal experience. You write about what you know.

You’re saying “we” and “our” when you talk about the Bush administration, and yet you’re very critical of how the administration has used the evangelical community for political ends. Do you feel any sense of personal responsibility for that?

Yes, I do. I did not write this book from a holier-than-thou perspective; I wrote this book from years of very painful personal experience. I know what it’s like when politics becomes God. I know what that does to personal relationships, to family. I know what it does to one’s own soul. I’ve been part of that world.

Anybody in politics who goes after the evangelical vote, I think, has a measure of spiritual accountability, especially when you invoke the name of God. Invoking God’s name to get anything can be a very dangerous thing spiritually. So, yes, I do think that I have responsibility, and I think one of the reasons to speak out, to write, is to confront that, to say to others: I know of what I speak.

How do you think the Christian right will respond to your book?

It’s rather extraordinary. I saw one evangelical political leader [Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council] say that no one will touch me now, which I found just an amazing phrasing. That’s the way the lepers were treated in Jesus’ time, and what Jesus was known for was going to the lepers: [Jesus wanted] to be where the sickest, most hurt people [were]. It’s amazing to me that someone in politics would say that anyone, anywhere, would become untouchable. That is extraordinary to me, and sad confirmation, frankly, of the political seduction that Christians are going through. I think that’s true of the Christian political leadership class, but my hope is that the tens of millions of people out there who aren’t controlled by these particular people will see this, read this, hear about this and think, “Wow. You know what? Maybe I need to rethink this. Maybe this makes some sense.” And frankly, that’s why I say we need to have this fast from politics, which I think is absolutely vital.

I think that evangelicals have gotten so involved in politics that it’s the way people primarily identify them, and I think it’s important for us, for them, to take a step out of politics for a while. Obviously vote, but don’t give money to these organizations. The problem is that Christians have been so invested in evangelizing politics that they have politicized their religion, and they’ve bought into an us-and-them mentality, so that frankly we—they—can no longer even communicate with people who happen to have different political views. Jesus sought out people who were prostitutes, outcasts and lowlifes. I fear that Christians are forgetting to invest in these very people and in the process isolating themselves by focusing too much on politics. I hope that by taking a step back we can give some of those hundreds of millions of dollars that are spent on attack ads, give it to the poor, give it to an after-school program, spend time with neighbors. As hokey as that may sound, it’s what Jesus said to do, and I think it’s more important right now than politics.

You’re not happy with the way Tony Perkins talks about you, but one of the most discussed things about you and your book has been your claim that the Bush team ridiculed Christian conservative leaders. You told CBS, for example, that “people in the White House political affairs office referred to Pat Robertson as ‘insane’” and “Jerry Falwell as ‘ridiculous.’” Is there any validity to the administration’s criticisms of the evangelical leaders they were dealing with?

(Laughs.) Wow. Um, that’s a good question.

You know, I go back to something that Chuck Colson wrote after he left the White House. Colson tells the story about his own experience working for Nixon, and he says in the early 1970s, working under Nixon, he was in charge of, basically, seducing these Christian leaders. He closes the story saying, “On the whole, of all the groups I dealt with, I found the religious leaders the most naive about politics. Maybe that is because so many came from sheltered backgrounds, or perhaps it is a mistaken perception of the demands of Christian charity ... Or, most worrisome of all, they may simply like to be around power.”

I think that’s the best answer to your question.

So you think they like the power too much, is that what you mean?

I think White House power is kind of like Tolkien’s ring of power. When you put it on, it feels good and dazzles. After a while it becomes imminently and remarkably distorting. I think everyone is subject to the negative influence of that power, and that’s true of anybody. It’s true of me, it’s true of anyone that’s worked there, it’s true of anybody in politics after a while.

Now, you took “60 Minutes” to an evangelical conference and were pointing out how no one there was talking about the poor. Were the faith-based anti-poverty programs the reason you got involved in politics?

Yeah, that’s the reason I went to the White House, that’s what I care most about, these anti-poverty compassion programs.

What are your views on the wedge issues, like abortion and gay marriage, that the administration tries to use to appeal to conservative Christian voters?

I’m taking a fast from politics. I’m not doing politics now. What I want to focus on is not political issues, what I want to focus on is, personally, in my life, caring for the poor and working with other people, and so I don’t want to say what my views are on one particular thing or another particular thing. It becomes, ultimately, spiritually divisive, and that’s not what Jesus is about. I don’t think that Jesus was particularly passionate about any particular political agenda, and I don’t want to be either.

Are you at all concerned that your politics and your motivation will be called into question by the White House in response to this book?

Many things about me will be called into question by the White House because of this book. I don’t suffer from any false notions about that. I know the lines of attack, they’ve already sort of—I’ve heard some of them, some of them are obvious. And I know what they’ll try and do. They’re doing what they feel like they need to do, and perhaps if I were them, in the same position, I might do the same thing. But that’s part of what I am talking about; that’s not a really good way to be, that’s not a good way to live.

One of the lines of attack that I’ve seen used against you is that you’re naive, that you didn’t understand the realities of working in the White House. What do you think of that accusation?

I’m an optimist. I hope. I believe in the possibility of change. I think if you don’t have those things, you should get your butt out of anything you’re involved in. But I also—I’ve worked for the CIA, I’ve worked in politics for more than a few years, I’ve had to deal with my own health issues, my own mortality. You can’t go through those things, you can’t work those places, and be some starry-eyed, naive naif. Do I believe in promises? Yeah, absolutely. But this idea that I’m some starry-eyed naif is just silly.

Posted by Nuttshell on 10/17 at 01:33 PM
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FREE SPEECH ON THE ROPES IN ENGLAND

This is just plain stupid.  Some call it political correctness, I say it’s just plain stupid.
Schoolgirl arrested for refusing to study with non-English pupils (Daily Mail-UK)
Last updated at 10:27am on 13th October 2006

A teenage schoolgirl was arrested by police for racism after refusing to sit with a group of Asian students because some of them did not speak English.

Codie Stott’s family claim she was forced to spend three-and-a-half hours in a police cell after she was reported by her teachers.
The 14-year-old - who was released without charge - said it had been a simple matter of commonsense and accused the school and police of an over-the-top reaction.

The incident happened in the same local education authority where a ten-year-old boy was prosecuted earlier this year for calling a schoolfriend racist names in the playground, a move branded by a judge “political correctness gone mad.”

Codie was attending a GCSE science class at Harrop Fold High School in Worsley, Greater Manchester, when the incident happened.

The teenager had not been in school the day before due to a hospital appointment and had missed the start of a project, so the teacher allocated her a group to sit with.

“She said I had to sit there with five Asian pupils,” said Codie yesterday.

“Only one could speak English, so she had to tell that one what to do so she could explain in their language. Then she sat me with them and said ‘Discuss’.”

According to Codie, the five - four boys and a girl - then began talking in a language she didn’t understand, thought to be Urdu, so she went to speak to the teacher.

“I said ‘I’m not being funny, but can I change groups because I can’t understand them?’ But she started shouting and screaming, saying ‘It’s racist, you’re going to get done by the police’.”

Codie said she went outside to calm down where another teacher found her and, after speaking to her class teacher, put her in isolation for the rest of the day. 

A complaint was made to a police officer based full-time at the school, and more than a week after the incident on September 26 she was taken to Swinton police station and placed under arrest.

“They told me to take my laces out of my shoes and remove my jewellery, and I had my fingerprints and photograph taken,” said Codie. “It was awful.”

After questioning on suspicion of committing a section five racial public order offence, her mother Nicola says she was placed in a bare cell for three-and-a-half hours then released without charge.

She only returned to lessons this week and has been put in a different science class.

Yesterday Miss Stott, 37, a cleaner, said: “Codie was not being racist.” “The reaction from the school and police is totally over the top and I am furious my daughter had to go through this trauma when all she was saying was common sense. “

“She’d have been better off not saying anything and getting into trouble for not being able to do the work.”

Miss Stott, who is separated from Codie and her 18-year-old brother Ashley’s father, lives with her partner Keith Seanor, a 36-year-old cable layer, in Walkden.

School insiders acknowledge that at least three of the students Codie refused to sit with had recently arrived in this country and spoke little English.

But they say her comments afterwards raised further concerns, for example allegedly referring to the students as “blacks” - something she denied yesterday.

The school is now investigating exactly what happened before deciding what action - if any - to take against Codie.

Headteacher Dr Antony Edkins said: “An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark by one student towards a group of Asian students new to the school and new to the country.”

“We aim to ensure a caring and tolerant attitude towards people and pupils of all ethnic backgrounds and will not stand for racism in any form.”

Fewer than two per cent of pupils at Harrop Fold come from an ethnic minority.

It had the worst GCSE results in the entire Salford LEA last year with just 15 per cent of pupils achieving five good passes including English and maths, a third of the national average.

Since being placed in special measures, Ofsted inspectors say it has improved, not least as a result of Dr Edkins’s “outstanding” leadership.

Salford was at the centre of a storm last April after a ten-year-old boy was hauled before a court for allegedly calling an 11-year-old mixed race pupil a ‘Paki’ and ‘Bin Laden’ in a playground argument at a primary school in Irlam.

When the case came before District Judge Jonathan Finestein he said the decision to prosecute showed “how stupid the whole system is getting”.

But was himself fiercely attacked by teaching union leaders for “feeding a pernicious agenda” that aided the BNP.

The prosecution was eventually dropped.

Last night Robert Whelan, deputy director of the Civitas think-tank, said: “It’s obviously common sense that pupils who don’t speak English cause problems for other pupils and for teachers.”

“I’m sure this sort of thing happens all the time, but it’s a sad reflection on the school if they can’t deal with it without involving the police.”

“A lot of these arrests don’t result in prosecutions - they aim is to frighten us into self-censorship until we watch everything we say.”

Greater Manchester Police denied Codie had been kept in a cell but would not comment further. 

Posted by Nuttshell on 10/17 at 10:01 AM
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Never ask George Bush tough questions.  He’ll make you disappear.

George Bush goes to a primary school to talk to the kids, to get a little boost in his PR. After his talk he offers question time. One little boy
puts up his hand and George asks him his name.
“Stanley,” responds the little boy.
“And what is your question, Stanley?”
“I have 4 questions: First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the UN?
Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes?
Third, whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden?”
Fourth, why are we so worried about gay-marriage when 1/2 of all Americans don’t even have health insurance? “

Just then, the bell rings for recess. George Bush informs the kiddies that they will continue after recess. When they resume George says,
“OK, where were we? Oh, that’s right: question time. Who has a question?” Another little boy puts up his hand.
George points him out and asks him his name. “Steve,” he responds.
“And what is your question, Steve?” “Actually , I have 6 questions. First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the UN?
Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes?
Third, whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden?
Fourth, why are we so worried about gay marriage when 1/2 of all Americans don’t have health insurance?
Fifth, why did the recess bell go off 20 minutes Early?
And sixth, what the hell happened to Stanley?”

Posted by SPN on 10/17 at 10:27 AM
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Keith Olbermann - True Patriot

This man rocks!  I started watching him last week after hearing so many great quotes.  I also heard Ambrose I. Lane read this on his show today.  If you read nothing else, read this commentary given on Countdown on October 5, 2006

Yesterday at a fundraiser for an Arizona Congressman, Mr. Bush claimed, quote, “177 of the opposition party said ‘You know, we don’t think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists.”

The hell they did.

177 Democrats opposed the President’s seizure of another part of the Constitution*.

Not even the White House press office could actually name a single Democrat who had ever said the government shouldn’t be listening to the conversations of terrorists.

President Bush hears… what he wants.

Tuesday, at another fundraiser in California, he had said “Democrats take a law enforcement approach to terrorism. That means America will wait until we’re attacked again before we respond.”

Mr. Bush fabricated that, too.

And evidently he has begun to fancy himself as a mind-reader.

“If you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party,” the President said at another fundraiser Monday in Nevada, “it sounds like they think the best way to protect the American people is — wait until we’re attacked again.”

The President doesn’t just hear what he wants. He hears things, that only he can hear.

It defies belief that this President and his administration could continue to find new unexplored political gutters into which they could wallow.

Yet they do.

It is startling enough that such things could be said out loud by any President of this nation.

Rhetorically, it is about an inch short of Mr. Bush accusing Democratic leaders; Democrats; the majority of Americans who disagree with his policies — of treason.

But it is the context that truly makes the head spin.

Just 25 days ago, on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, this same man spoke to this nation and insisted, quote, “we must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us.”

Mr. Bush, this is a test you have already failed.

If your commitment to “put aside differences and work together” is replaced in the span of just three weeks by claiming your political opponents prefer to wait to see this country attacked again, and by spewing fabrications about what they’ve said, then the questions your critics need to be asking, are no longer about your policies.

They are, instead — solemn and even terrible questions, about your fitness to fulfill the responsibilities of your office.

No Democrat, sir, has ever said anything approaching the suggestion that the best means of self-defense is to “wait until we’re attacked again.”

No critic, no commentator, no reluctant Republican in the Senate, has ever said anything that any responsible person could even have exaggerated into the slander you spoke in Nevada on Monday night, nor the slander you spoke in California on Tuesday, nor the slander you spoke in Arizona on Wednesday… nor whatever is next.

You have dishonored your party, sir — you have dishonored your supporters — you have dishonored yourself.

But tonight the stark question we must face is - why?

Why has the ferocity of your venom against the Democrats, now exceeded the ferocity of your venom against the terrorists?

Why have you chosen to go down in history as the President who made things up?

In less than one month you have gone from a flawed call to unity, to this clarion call to hatred of Americans, by Americans.

If this is not simply the most shameless example of the rhetoric of political hackery, then it would have to be the cry of a leader crumbling under the weight of his own lies.

We have, of course, survived all manner of political hackery, of every shape, size, and party.

We will have to suffer it, for as long as the Republic stands.

But the premise of a President who comes across as a compulsive liar — is nothing less than terrifying.

A President who since 9/11 will not listen, is not listening — and thanks to Bob Woodward’s most recent account — evidently has never listened.

A President who since 9/11 so hates or fears other Americans, that he accuses them of advocating deliberate inaction in the face of the enemy.

A President who since 9/11 has savaged the very freedoms he claims to be protecting from attack. Attack by terrorists, or by Democrats, or by both — it is now impossible to find a consistent thread of logic as to who Mr. Bush believes the enemy is.

But if we know one thing for certain about Mr. Bush, it is this:

This President — in his bullying of the Senate last month and in his slandering of the Democrats this month — has shown us that he believes whoever the enemies are — they are hiding themselves inside a dangerous cloak, called the Constitution of the United States of America.

How often do we find priceless truth in the unlikeliest of places?

I tonight quote, not Jefferson nor Voltaire — but “Cigar Aficionado Magazine.”

On September 11th, 2003, the editor of that publication interviewed General Tommy Franks — at that point, just retired from his post as Commander-In-Chief of U.S. Central Command — of Cent-Com.

And amid his quaint defenses of the-then nagging absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, or the continuing freedom of Osama Bin Laden, General Franks said some of the most profound words of this generation.

He spoke of “the worst thing that can happen” to this country:

First, quoting, a “massive casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western World — it may be in the United States of America.”

Then, the general continued, “the western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years, in this grand experiment that we call democracy.”

It was this super-patriotic warrior’s fear that we would lose that most cherished liberty, because of another attack, one — again quoting General Franks — “that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass-casualty-producing event. Which, in fact, then begins to potentially unravel the fabric of our Constitution.”

And here we are, the fabric of our Constitution being unraveled anyway.

Habeus Corpus neutered; the rights of self-defense now as malleable and impermanent as clay; a President stifling all critics by every means available and when he runs out of those, by simply lying about what they said or felt.

And all this, even without the dreaded attack.

General Franks, like all of us, loves this country, and believes not just in its values, but in its continuity. He has been trained to look for threats to that continuity from without.

He has, perhaps been as naive as the rest of us, in failing to keep close enough vigil on the threats to that continuity, from within:

Secretary of State Rice first cannot remember urgent cautionary meetings with counter-terrorism officials before 9/11.

Then within hours of this lie, her spokesman confirms the meetings in question.

Then she dismisses those meetings as nothing new — yet insists she wanted the same cautions expressed to Secretaries Ashcroft and Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld, meantime, has been unable to accept the most logical and simple influence, of the most noble and neutral of advisers. He and his employer insist they rely on the ‘generals in the field.’

But dozens of those generals have now come forward to say how their words, their experiences, have been ignored.

And, of course, inherent in the Pentagon’s war-making functions, is the regulation of Presidential war-lust. Enacting that regulation should include everything up to, symbolically wrestling the Chief Executive to the floor.

Yet — and it is Pentagon transcripts that now tell us this — evidently Mr. Rumsfeld’s strongest check on Mr. Bush’s ambitions, was to get somebody to excise the phrase “Mission Accomplished” out of the infamous Air Force Carrier speech of May 1st, 2003 - even while the same empty words hung on a banner over the President’s shoulder.

And the Vice President is a chilling figure, still unable, it seems, to accept the conclusions of his own party’s leaders in the Senate, that the foundations of his public position, are made out of sand.

There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

But he still says so.

There was no link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.

But he still says so.

And thus, gripping firmly these figments of his own imagination, Mr. Cheney lives on, in defiance and spreads — around him and before him — darkness… like some contagion of fear.

They are never wrong, and they never regret. Admirable in a French torch singer. Cataclysmic in an American leader.

Thus the sickening attempt to blame the Foley Scandal on the negligence of others or “The Clinton Era” — even though the Foley Scandal began before the Lewinsky Scandal.

Thus last month’s enraged attacks on this Administration’s predecessors, about Osama Bin Laden — a projection of their own negligence in the immediate months before 9/11.

Thus the terrifying attempt to hamstring the fundament of our freedom — the Constitution — a triumph for Al-Qaeda, for which the terrorists could not hope to achieve with a hundred 9/11’s.

And thus, worst of all perhaps, these newest lies by President Bush about Democrats choosing to await another attack and not listen to the conversations of terrorists.

It is the terror and the guilt within your own heart, Mr. Bush, that you re-direct at others who simply wish for you to temper your certainty with counsel.

It is the failure and the incompetence within your own memory, Mr. Bush, that leads you to demonize those who might merely quote to you the pleadings of Oliver Cromwell: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

It is not the Democrats whose inaction in the face of the enemy you fear, sir.

It is your own — before 9/11 - (and you alone know this), perhaps afterwards.

Mr. President, these new lies go to the heart of what it is that you truly wish to preserve.

It is not our freedom, nor our country — your actions against the Constitution give irrefutable proof of that.

You want to preserve a political party’s power. And obviously you’ll sell this country out, to do it.

These are lies about the Democrats piled atop lies about Iraq which were piled atop lies about your preparations for Al-Qaeda.

To you, perhaps, they feel like the weight of a million centuries.

As crushing. As immovable.

They are not.

If you add more lies to them, you cannot free yourself, and us, from them.

But if you stop — if you stop fabricating quotes, and building straw-men, and inspiring those around you to do the same — you may yet liberate yourself and this nation.

Please, sir, do not throw this country’s principles away because your lies have made it such that you can no longer differentiate between the terrorists and the critics.


Good night, and good luck.

Posted by Nuttshell on 10/10 at 12:19 AM
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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Happy Birthday SPN!

With Love - the Family

Posted by Nuttshell on 10/08 at 06:51 PM
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Abduction and Torture of an Innocent Man

By MAHER ARAR

I am here today to tell the people of Canada what has happened to me.

There have been many allegations made about me in the media, all of them by people who refuse to be named or come forward. So before I tell you who I am and what happened to me, I will tell you who I am not.

I am not a terrorist. I am not a member of al-Qaida and I do not know any one who belongs to this group. All I know about al-Qaida is what I have seen in the media.I have never been to Afghanistan. I have never been anywhere near Afghanistan and I do not have any desire to ever go to Afghanistan. Now, let me tell you who I am.

I am a Syrian-born Canadian. I moved here with my parents when I was 17 years old. I went to university and studied hard, and eventually obtained a Masters degree in telecommunications. I met my wife, Monia at McGill University. We fell in love and eventually married in 1994. I knew then that she was special, but I had no idea how special she would turn out to be.

If it were not for her, I believe I would still be in prison.  We had our first child, a daughter named Bar’a, in February 1997. She is six years old now. In December 1997, we moved to Ottawa from Montreal.

I took a job with a high-tech firm, called The MathWorks, in Boston in 1999, and my job involved a lot of travel within the U.S.  Then in 2001 I decided to come back to Ottawa to start my own consulting company. We had our second child, Houd, in February 2002. He is 20 months old now.

So this is who I am. I am a father and a husband. I am a telecommunications engineer and entrepreneur. I have never had trouble with the police and have always been a good citizen.

So I still cannot believe what has happened to me, and how my life and career have been destroyed.  In September 2002, I was with my wife and children, and her family, vacationing in Tunis.  I got an e-mail from the MathWorks saying that they might need me soon to assess a potential consulting work for one of their customers.  I said goodbye to my wife and family, and headed back home to prepare for work.  I was using my air-miles to travel, and the best flight I could get went from Tunis, to Zurich, to New York, to Montreal.

My flight arrived in New York at 2 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2002. I had a few hours to wait until my connecting flight to Montreal.  This is when my nightmare began. I was pulled aside at immigration and taken to another area.  Two hours later some officials came and told me this was regular procedure—they took my fingerprints and photographs.  Then some police came and searched my bags and copied my Canadian passport. I was getting worried, and I asked what was going on, and they would not answer.  I asked to make a phone call, and they would not let me.  Then a team of people came and told me they wanted to ask me some questions. One man was from the FBI, and another was from the New York Police Department.  I was scared and did not know what was going on.

I told them I wanted a lawyer. They told me I had no right to a lawyer, because I was not an American citizen.  They asked me where I worked and how much money I made. They swore at me, and insulted me. It was very humiliating.  They wanted me to answer every question quickly.  They were consulting a report while they were questioning me, and the information they had was so private—I thought this must be from Canada. I told them everything I knew.  They asked me about my travel in the United States. I told them about my work permits, and my business there.  They asked about information on my computer and whether I was willing to share it. I welcomed the idea, but I don’t know if they did. They asked me about different people, some I know, and most I do not.  They asked me about Abdullah Almalki, and I told them I worked with his brother at high-tech firms in Ottawa, and that the Almalki family had come from Syria about the same time as mine. I told them I did not know Abdullah well, but had seen him a few times and I described the times I could remember.  I told them I had a casual relationship with him.

They were so rude with me, yelling at me that I had a selective memory. Then they pulled out a copy of my rental lease from 1997. I could not believe they had this.  I was completely shocked. They pointed out that Abdullah had signed the lease as a witness. I had completely forgotten that he had signed it for me—when we moved to Ottawa in 1997, we needed someone to witness our lease, and I phoned Abdullah’s brother, and he could not come, so he sent Abdullah.  But they thought I was hiding this. I told them the truth. I had nothing to hide. I had never had problems in the United States before, and I could not believe what was happening to me.

This interrogation continued until midnight. I was very, very worried, and asked for a lawyer again and again.  They just ignored me. Then they put me in chains, on my wrists and ankles, and took me in a van to a place where many people were being held—another building by the airport. They would not tell me what was happening.

At one in the morning they put me in a room with metal benches in it. I could not sleep. I was very, very scared and disoriented. The next morning they started questioning me again.  They asked me about what I think about bin Laden, Palestine, Iraq. They also asked me about the mosques I pray in, my bank accounts, my e-mail addresses, my relatives, about everything.

This continued on and off for eight hours.  Then a man from the INS came in and told me they wanted me to volunteer to go to Syria. I said no way.

I said I wanted to go home to Canada or sent back to Switzerland. He said to me ‘you are a special interest.’ They asked me to sign a form. They would not let me read it, but I just signed it. I was exhausted and confused and disoriented.

I had not slept or eaten since I was in the plane. At about six in the evening they brought me some cold McDonalds meal to eat.  This was the first food I had eaten since the last meal I had on the plane. At about eight o’clock they put all the shackles and chains back on, and put me in a van, and drove me to a prison.  I later learned this was the Metropolitan Detention Centre. They would not tell me what was happening, or where I was going.  They strip searched me. It was humiliating. They put me in an orange suit, and took me to a doctor, where they made me sign forms, and gave me a vaccination.  I asked what it was, and they would not tell me. My arm was red for almost two weeks from that. They took me to a cell. I had never seen a prison before in my life, and I was terrified. I asked again for a phone call and a lawyer. They just ignored me.

They treated me differently than the other prisoners. They would not give me a toothbrush or toothpaste, or reading material. I did get a copy of the Koran about two days later.  After five days, they let me make a phone call. I called Monia’s mother, who was here in Ottawa, and told her I was scared they might send me to Syria, and asked her to help find me a lawyer. They would only let me talk for two minutes.  On the seventh or eighth day they brought me a document, saying they had decided to deport me, and I had a choice of where to be deported. I wrote that I wanted to go to Canada. It asked if I had concerns about going to Canada. I wrote no, and signed it.

The Canadian consul came on Oct. 4, and I told her I was scared of being deported to Syria. She told me that would not happen. She told me that a lawyer was being arranged. I was very upset, and scared. I could barely talk.

The next day, a lawyer came. She told me not to sign any document unless she was present. We could only talk for 30 minutes. She said she would try to help me. That was a Saturday.  On Sunday night at about 9 p.m., the guards came to my cell and told me my lawyer was there to see me. I thought it was a strange time, and they took me into a room with seven or eight people in it.  I asked where my lawyer was. They told me he had refused to come and started questioning me again.  They said they wanted to know why I did not want to go back to Syria. I told them I would be tortured there. I told them I had not done my military service; I am a Sunni Muslim; my mother’s cousin had been accused of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and was put in prison for nine years.

They asked me to sign a document and I refused. I told them they could not send me to Syria - I would be tortured.  I asked again for a lawyer. At three in the morning they took me back to my cell. At three in the morning on Tuesday, Oct. 8, a prison guard woke me up and told me I was leaving.

They took me to another room and stripped and searched me again. Then they again chained and shackled me.  Then two officials took me inside a room and read me what they said was a decision by the INS director. They told me that based on classified information that they could not reveal to me, I would be deported to Syria.  I said again that I would be tortured there. Then they read part of the document where it explained that INS was not the body that deals with Geneva Convention regarding torture.

Then they took me outside into a car and drove me to an airport in New Jersey. Then they put me on a small private jet. I was the only person on the plane with them. I was still chained and shackled. We flew first to Washington.

A new team of people got on the plane and the others left. I overheard them talking on the phone, saying that Syria was refusing to take me directly, but Jordan would take me.  Then we flew to Portland, to Rome, and then to Amman, Jordan. All the time I was on the plane I was thinking how to avoid being tortured. I was very scared.  We landed in Amman at three in the morning local time on Oct. 9. They took me out of plane and there were six or seven Jordanian men waiting for us.  They blindfolded and chained me, and put me in a van. They made me bend my head down in the back seat. Then, these men started beating me. Every time I tried to talk they beat me.

For the first few minutes it was very intense.  Thirty minutes later, we arrived at a building where they took off my blindfold and asked routine questions, before taking me to a cell. It was around 4:30 in the morning on Oct. 9.

Later that day, they took my fingerprints, and blindfolded me and put me in a van. I asked where I was going, and they told me I was going back to Montreal.  About 45 minutes later, I was put into a different car. These men started beating me again. They made me keep my head down, and it was very uncomfortable, but every time I moved, they beat me again. Over an hour later, we arrived at what I think was the border with Syria.  I was put in another car and we drove for another three hours.  I was taken into a building, where some guards went through my bags and took some chocolates I bought in Zurich. I asked one of the people where I was and he told me I was in the Palestine branch of the Syrian military intelligence. It was now about six in the evening on Oct. 9.

Three men came and took me into a room. I was very, very scared. They put me on a chair, and one of the men started asking me questions. I later learned this man was a colonel.  He asked me about my brothers, and why we had left Syria. I answered all the questions. If I did not answer quickly enough, he would point to a metal chair in the corner and ask ‘Do you want me to use this?’ I did not know then what that chair was for. I learned later it was used to torture people.  I asked him what he wanted to hear. I was terrified, and I did not want to be tortured. I would say anything to avoid torture. This lasted for four hours. There was no violence, only threats this day.

At about one in the morning, the guards came to take me to my cell downstairs.  We went into the basement, and they opened a door, and I looked in. I could not believe what I saw. I asked how long I would be kept in this place. He did not answer, but put me in and closed the door. It was like a grave. It had no light.  It was three feet wide. It was six feet deep. It was seven feet high. It had a metal door, with a small opening in the door, which did not let in light because there was a piece of metal on the outside for sliding things into the cell.  There was a small opening in the ceiling, about one foot by two feet with iron bars. Over that was another ceiling, so only a little light came through this.  There were cats and rats up there, and from time to time the cats peed through the opening into the cell. There were two blankets, two dishes and two bottles. One bottle was for water and the other one was used for urinating during the night. Nothing else. No light.

I spent 10 months, and 10 days inside that grave.

The next day I was taken upstairs again. The beating started that day and was very intense for a week, and then less intense for another week. That second and the third days were the worst.  I could hear other prisoners being tortured, and screaming and screaming. Interrogations are carried out in different rooms.  One tactic they use is to question prisoners for two hours, and then put them in a waiting room, so they can hear the others screaming, and then bring them back to continue the interrogation.  The cable is a black electrical cable, about two inches thick. They hit me with it everywhere on my body.  They mostly aimed for my palms, but sometimes missed and hit my wrists—they were sore and red for three weeks. They also struck me on my hips, and lower back. Interrogators constantly threatened me with the metal chair, tire and electric shocks.  The tire is used to restrain prisoners while they torture them with beating on the sole of their feet. I guess I was lucky, because they put me in the tire, but only as a threat.  I was not beaten while in tire. They used the cable on the second and third day, and after that mostly beat me with their hands, hitting me in the stomach and on the back of my neck, and slapping me on the face.

Where they hit me with the cables, my skin turned blue for two or three weeks, but there was no bleeding. At the end of the day, they told me tomorrow would be worse. So I could not sleep.

Then on the third day, the interrogation lasted about 18 hours. They beat me from time to time and make me wait in the waiting room for one to two hours before resuming the interrogation.  While in the waiting room I heard a lot of people screaming. They wanted me to say I went to Afghanistan. This was a surprise to me.  They had not asked about this in the United States. They kept beating me so I had to falsely confess and told them I did go to Afghanistan. I was ready to confess to anything if it would stop the torture. They wanted me to say I went to a training camp.  I was so scared I urinated on myself twice. The beating was less severe each of the following days. At the end of each day, they would always say, ‘Tomorrow will be harder for you. ‘ So each night, I could not sleep. I did not sleep for the first four days, and slept no more than two hours a day for about two months. Most of time, I was not taken back to my cell, but to the waiting room where I could hear all the prisoners being tortured and screaming.

One time, I heard them banging a man’s head repeatedly on a desk really hard. Around Oct. 17, the beatings subsided. Their next tactic was to take me in a room, blindfolded, and people would talk about me.  I could hear them saying, ‘He knows lots of people who are terrorists;’ ‘We will get their numbers;’ ‘He is a liar;’ ‘He has been out of the country for long.’ Then they would say, ‘Let’s be frank, let’s be friends, tell us the truth,’ and come around the desk, and slap me on the face. They played lots of mind games.

The interrogation and beating ended three days before I had my first consular visit, on Oct. 23.  I was taken from my cell and my beard was shaved. I was taken to another building, and there was the colonel in the hallway with some other men and they all seemed very nervous and agitated.

I did not know what was happening and they would not tell me. They never say what is happening. You never know what will happen next.  I was told not to tell anything about the beating, then I was taken into a room for a 10-minute meeting with the consul. The colonel was there, and three other Syrian officials including an interpreter. I cried a lot at that meeting. I could not say anything about the torture. I thought if I did, I would not get any more visits, or I might be beaten again.

After that visit, about a month after I arrived, they called me up to sign and place my thumb print on a document about seven pages long.  They would not let me read it, but I had to put my thumb print and signature on the bottom of each page. It was handwritten. Another document was about three pages long, with questions: Who are your friends? How long have you been out of the country? Last question was empty lines. They answered the questions with their own handwriting except for the last one where I was forced to write that I had been to Afghanistan.

The consular visits were my lifeline, but I also found them very frustrating.

There were seven consular visits, and one visit from members of Parliament. After the visits, I would bang my head and my fist on the wall in frustration. I needed the visits, but I could not say anything there.  I got new clothes after the Dec. 10 consular visit. Until then, I had been wearing the same clothes since being on the jet from the United States.  On three different occasions in December, I had a very hard time. Memories crowded my mind and I thought I was going to lose control, and I just screamed and screamed. I could not breathe well after, and felt very dizzy.  I was not exposed to sunlight for six months. The only times I left the grave was for interrogation, and for the visits.  Daily life in that place was hell. When I was detained in New York I weighed about 180 pounds. I think I lost about 40 pounds while I was at the Palestine Branch.

On Aug. 19, I was taken upstairs to see the investigator and I was given a paper and asked to write what he dictated.  If I protested, he kicked me. I was forced to write that I went to a training camp in Afghanistan. They made me sign and put my thumbprint on the last page.  The same day I was transferred to a different place, which I learnt later was the Investigation Branch.  I was placed there in a 12 feet by 20 feet collective cell. We were about 50 people in that place. The next day, I was taken to the Sednaya prison. I was very lucky that I was not tortured when I arrived there. All the other prisoners were tortured when they arrived.

Sednaya prison was like heaven for me. I could move around, and talk with other prisoners. I could buy food to eat and I gained a lot of weight there. I was only beaten once there.  On around Sept. 19 or 20, I heard the other prisoners saying that another Canadian had arrived there.  I looked up, and saw a man, but I did not recognize him. His head was shaved, and he was very, very thin and pale. He was very weak. When I looked closer, I recognized him.  It was Abdullah Almalki. He told me he had also been at the Palestine Branch, and that he had also been in a grave like I had been—except he had been in it longer.  He told me he had been severely tortured—with the tire, and the cable. He was also hanged upside down. He was tortured much worse than me. He had also been tortured when he was brought to Sednaya, so that was only two weeks before.

I do not know why they have Abdullah there. What I can say for sure is that no human deserves to be treated the way he was, and I hope that Canada does all they can to help him.  On Sept. 28, I was taken out and blindfolded and put in what felt like a bus and taken back to the Palestine Branch.  They would not tell me what was happening, and I was scared I was going back to the grave. Instead, I was put in one of the waiting rooms where they torture people. I could hear the prisoners being tortured, and screaming, again.

The same day I was called in to an office to answer more questions, about what I would say if I came back to Canada. They did not tell me I would be released.  I was put back in the waiting room, and I was kept there for one week, listening to all the prisoners screaming.  It was awful. On Sunday, Oct. 5, I was taken out and into a car and driven to a court. I was put in a room with a prosecutor. I asked for a lawyer and he said I did not need one.

I asked what was going on and he read from my confession. I tried to argue I was beaten and did not go to Afghanistan, but he did not listen.  He did not tell me what I was charged with, but told me to stamp my fingerprint and sign on a document he would not let me see. Then he said I would be released.Then I was taken back to the Palestine Branch where I met the head of the Syrian Military Intelligence and officials from the Canadian Embassy. And then I was released.

I want to conclude by thanking all of the people who worked for my release, especially my wife Monia, and human rights groups, and all the people who wrote letters, and all the members of parliament who stood up for justice.

Of course, I thank all of the journalists for covering my story.  The past year has been a nightmare, and I have spent the past few weeks at home trying to learn how to live with what happened to me.  I know that the only way I will ever be able to move on in my life and have a future is if I can find out why this happened to me.  I want to know why this happened to me. I believe the only way I can ever know why this happened is to have all the truth come out in a public inquiry.

My priority right now is to clear my name, get to the bottom of the case and make sure this does not happen to any other Canadian citizens in the future.

I believe the best way to go about achieving this goal is to put pressure on the government to call for a public inquiry.  What is at stake here is the future of our country, the interests of Canadian citizens, and most importantly Canada’s international reputation for being a leader in human rights where citizens from different ethnic groups are treated no different than other Canadians.

Posted by Nuttshell on 10/04 at 02:13 PM
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I miss her.

A picture of my Mother-in-Law before she passed.  We spent a lot of time at her house in GA.  Most of that time was spent in the kitchen where this picture was taken.  She was a devoted Christian and a great lady.

Annetter

Posted by SPN on 10/04 at 10:46 AM
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Habeas Corpus, R.I.P. (1215 - 2006)

With a smug stroke of his pen, President Bush is set to wipe out a safeguard against illegal imprisonment that has endured as a cornerstone of legal justice since the Magna Carta.
by Molly Ivins

AUSTIN, Texas - Oh dear. I’m sure he didn’t mean it. In Illinois’ Sixth Congressional District, long represented by Henry Hyde, Republican candidate Peter Roskam accused his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, of planning to “cut and run” on Iraq.

Duckworth is a former Army major and chopper pilot who lost both legs in Iraq after her helicopter got hit by an RPG. “I just could not believe he would say that to me,” said Duckworth, who walks on artificial legs and uses a cane. Every election cycle produces some wincers, but how do you apologize for that one?

The legislative equivalent of that remark is the detainee bill now being passed by Congress. Beloveds, this is so much worse than even that pathetic deal reached last Thursday between the White House and Republican Sens. John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The White House has since reinserted a number of “technical fixes” that were the point of the putative “compromise.” It leaves the president with the power to decide who is an enemy combatant.

This bill is not a national security issue—this is about torturing helpless human beings without any proof they are our enemies. Perhaps this could be considered if we knew the administration would use the power with enormous care and thoughtfulness. But of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place.

Death by torture by Americans was first reported in 2003 in a New York Times article by Carlotta Gall. The military had announced the prisoner died of a heart attack, but when Gall saw the death certificate, written in English and issued by the military, it said the cause of death was homicide. The “heart attack” came after he had been beaten so often on this legs that they had “basically been pulpified,” according to the coroner.

The story of why and how it took the Times so long to print this information is in the current edition of the Columbia Journalism Review. The press in general has been late and slow in reporting torture, so very few Americans have any idea how far it has spread. As is often true in hierarchical, top-down institutions, the orders get passed on in what I call the downward communications exaggeration spiral.

For example, on a newspaper, a top editor may remark casually, “Let’s give the new mayor a chance to see what he can do before we start attacking him.”

This gets passed on as “Don’t touch the mayor unless he really screws up.”

And it ultimately arrives at the reporter level as “We can’t say anything negative about the mayor.”

The version of the detainee bill now in the Senate not only undoes much of the McCain-Warner-Graham work, but it is actually much worse than the administration’s first proposal. In one change, the original compromise language said a suspect had the right to “examine and respond to” all evidence used against him. The three senators said the clause was necessary to avoid secret trials. The bill has now dropped the word “examine” and left only “respond to.”

In another change, a clause said that evidence obtained outside the United States could be admitted in court even if it had been gathered without a search warrant. But the bill now drops the words “outside the United States,” which means prosecutors can ignore American legal standards on warrants.

The bill also expands the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant to cover anyone who has “has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” Quick, define “purposefully and materially.” One person has already been charged with aiding terrorists because he sold a satellite TV package that includes the Hezbollah network.

The bill simply removes a suspect’s right to challenge his detention in court. This is a rule of law that goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215. That pretty much leaves the barn door open.

As Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet dissident, wrote, an intelligence service free to torture soon “degenerates into a playground for sadists.” But not unbridled sadism—you will be relieved that the compromise took out the words permitting interrogation involving “severe pain” and substituted “serious pain,” which is defined as “bodily injury that involves extreme physical pain.”

In July 2003, George Bush said in a speech: “The United States is committed to worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes, whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit.”

Fellow citizens, this bill throws out legal and moral restraints as the president deems it necessary—these are fundamental principles of basic decency, as well as law.

I’d like those supporting this evil bill to spare me one affliction: Do not, please, pretend to be shocked by the consequences of this legislation. And do not pretend to be shocked when the world begins comparing us to the Nazis.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and see works by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at http://www.creators.com.

Copyright 2006 TruthDig

Posted by Nuttshell on 10/03 at 01:36 AM
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Monday, October 02, 2006

From Cuzco Carmen’s Notebook - CONTINUED

AND CONTINUING THE DAY AT THE Q’EWAR PROJECT…

At 12:30pm the ladies wind up their morning’s work and walk down the hill to the village, picking up their children from school perhaps and returning to their houses.  Making a lunch of soup plus a “secunda”, the second part of the meal which may include some meat, potatoes, white rice, and some vegetables.

There is a wide variety of vegetables available to the cook, although carrots, onions, potatoes, garlic, squash/pumpkin, tomatoes, lettuce and celery are staples.  There is no desert.  “We have no time to make it”, the ladies told me with a laugh.  Dinner may be leftovers from lunch or just bread and cheese with a hot drink.

After dinner, which may or may not be around a table, activities wind down and there may be time for conversation, card games or black and white TV if they have electricity and a set.  Of course, nobody has “cable TV” and the meager offerings from the capital city Lima are not exactly educational or uplifting, to say the least. 

The children go to bed at the same time as the adults / there may be only one bed, or one room for living and sleeping.  So the children have the same rhythms as their parents – sleeping and eating-wise. Because the children often are awake until late hours of the night, they suffer greatly when in school, often being tired and unable to focus or concentrate.

Of course, some of the ladies have houses with more than one room and one bed, but my kind reader must not have any illusions that these conditions are in any way similar to their own however modest dwellings.  In general, the ladies who work at the Q’ewar Project have no showers, having only a kitchen sink (inside or outside) from which to wash themselves.  Some have a W.C.

Saturday, the Q’ewar ladies bring their children to the Project where they are lovingly taken care of in Wawa Munakuy while their mothers work in various ways – in the workshops, managing the women that come from high above Andahuaylillas to spin wool, knit or weave cloth for all the beautiful clothes that the Q’ewar dolls wear.  Making plant dyes for the wool fibers, taking a knitting class or learning how to weave - all are part of the Saturday rhythms.  Julio told me that it is optional whether the Monday thru Friday doll makers stay all day, or come at all.

Sunday is the day of the week which has a different character to it.  The ladies laughed when I suggested it was a day to rest or have a little fun!  They told me it was their day to do the family laundry (by hand, outside, using only cold water and harsh detergent in a plastic tub); it was their day to clean the house, shop for food in the next pueblo and get ready for the week ahead.  Some of the ladies might go to the small Catholic Church in the village, but I did not ask who attended. 

One of the ladies told me, with great animation, that HER favorite time was when there was a fiesta, with dancing and drinking chicha (a strong Peruvian beer made from fermented corn or grain).  All the women told me that generally conversation was the one pastime they could have each day that was their way of relaxing.  At the Q’ewar Project, there is a quiet tranquil atmosphere which is conducive to conversation and all the ladies truly enjoy their hours at the Project.  There is no pressure or stress to “race against time” to complete their work and with warm and well lit workshops, each woman has found a place in which to find community and friendship.

An important postscript to the life of the Q’ewar ladies that I have just elaborated above is to say that the women are completely free to come to work or not.  Most come very regularly, but the bottom line is that they come when they choose to come.  No contracts have been signed.  They are paid for the work they do when they come.  Some have family obligations or other reasons why they may not show up for work on a given day.  Usually they ask Julio or Lucy for permission to leave if it is an extended time away from the Project.  Julio told me that the answer is always “Yes”!

The home life of each Q’ewar worker is multifaceted, sometimes austere, and often very harsh.  Yet, somehow they are all changing in the environment of the Q’ewar Project, having space and time to create lovingly such beautiful, “soulful” dolls for others to enjoy. They are finding friendships, help when in need and new skills to apply in and out of the Q’ewar workshops.

Please write us with your questions or comments! We always love to hear from our many friends around the world!

Spring/Autumn Greetings to All! 

Posted by Carmen on 10/02 at 09:43 AM
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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Does Anyone Care that We Became a Fascist State last Thursday?

I wonder will I be telling my grandchildren how great this country used to be until Congress gave away our rights on September 29, 2006 and made GW Bush the Unitary Executive with supreme power...or am I the only one who cares about such things?

Posted by Nuttshell on 10/01 at 02:54 PM
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