Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein And Why "This Was a Guilty Verdict on America As Well"

[Ed. note: Cross-posted on Cut to the Chase.]

Although this was written by Robert Fisk, one of the truly best journalists covering the Iraq war, and posted on Extra! Extra! early in November, it seems at least as appropriate now, in the wake of Saddam Hussein's hurried execution by hanging early today (6 AM, Iraq time). Here:
"So America's one-time ally has been sentenced to death for war crimes he committed when he was Washington's best friend in the Arab world. America knew all about his atrocities and even supplied the gas -- along with the British, of course -- yet there we were yesterday declaring it to be, in the White House's words, another 'great day for Iraq'. That's what Tony Blair announced when Saddam Hussein was pulled from his hole in the ground on 13 December 2003. And now we're going to string him up, and it's another great day.

"Of course, it couldn't happen to a better man. Nor a worse. It couldn't be a more just verdict -- nor a more hypocritical one. It's difficult to think of a more suitable monster for the gallows, preferably dispatched by his executioner, the equally monstrous hangman of Abu Ghraib prison, Abu Widad, who would strike his victims on the head with an axe if they dared to condemn the leader of the Iraqi Socialist Baath Party before he hanged them. But Abu Widad was himself hanged at Abu Ghraib in 1985 after accepting a bribe to put a reprieved prisoner to death instead of the condemned man. But we can't mention Abu Ghraib these days because we have followed Saddam's trail of shame into the very same institution. And so by hanging this awful man, we hope -- don't we? -- to look better than him, to remind Iraqis that life is better now than it was under Saddam.

"Only so ghastly is the hell-disaster that we have inflicted upon Iraq that we cannot even say that. Life is now worse. Or rather, death is now visited upon even more Iraqis than Saddam was able to inflict on his Shias and Kurds and -- yes, in Fallujah of all places -- his Sunnis, too. So we cannot even claim moral superiority. For if Saddam's immorality and wickedness are to be the yardstick against which all our iniquities are judged, what does that say about us? We only sexually abused prisoners and killed a few of them and murdered some suspects and carried out a few rapes and illegally invaded a country which cost Iraq a mere 600,000 lives ('more or less', as George Bush Jnr said when he claimed the figure to be only 30,000). Saddam was much worse. We can't be put on trial. We can't be hanged.

"'Allahu Akbar', the awful man shouted -- God is greater. No surprise there. He it was who insisted these words should be inscribed upon the Iraqi flag, the same flag which now hangs over the palace of the government that has condemned him after a trial at which the former Iraqi mass murderer was formally forbidden from describing his relationship with Donald Rumsfeld, now George Bush's Secretary of Defence. Remember that handshake? Nor, of course, was he permitted to talk about the support he received from George Bush Snr, the current US President's father. Little wonder, then, that Iraqi officials claimed last week the Americans had been urging them to sentence Saddam before the mid-term US elections.

War crimes.
Crimes against humanity.
Wholesale destruction of the Iraqi people and their civilization.

These were all terms used to describe the acts for which Saddam was found guilty, sentenced to death, and then executed by hanging.

True of Saddam. But aren't they equally true of the Bush Administration in what they have perpetrated on the people of Iraq since troops first rolled into the country in early 2003?

If true - and I believe very much that it is - why have Bush and his cronies not had just charges leveled against them? This is a most serious question.

It is a question we should all consider at this time, both for the "integrity" of our own process as well as to analyze what messages this very one-sided "justice" transmits both to the people of Iraq as well as the rest of the world.

What say you?

Ambigrams by Nagfa

[Ed. note: Cross-posted at Cut to the Chase.]

After I posted the information about ambigrams last night, a talented artist and blogger from Singapore, Nagfa, posted a comment inviting me (and by extension, you) to go look at some of the examples posted on the Ambigrams by Nagfa site. Go here.

And thank you, Nagfa. Salam (peace) to you as well!

Friday, December 29, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth For Us All: Ancient Canadian Arctic Ice Sheet Breaks Away

[Ed. note: Cross-posted at Cut to the Chase.]

I'm sooooo glad global warming is just a myth because otherwise, I'd be forced to worry that this ancient, massive Canadian arctic ice sheet has just gone plunk.

A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an island south of the North Pole, scientists said Thursday, citing climate change as a "major" reason for the event.

The Ayles Ice Shelf — 66 square kilometers (41 square miles) of it — broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic.

Scientists discovered the event by using satellite imagery. Within one hour of breaking free, the shelf had formed as a new ice island, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.

Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, traveled to the newly formed ice island and was amazed at the sight.

"This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian North that have been in place for many thousands of years," Vincent said. "We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead."

The ice shelf was one of six major shelves remaining in Canada's Arctic. They are packed with ancient ice that is more than 3,000 years old. They float on the sea but are connected to land.

And, in the height of irony (considering Mr. Bush's and the entire Bush Administration's extreme anti-environmental/anti-science efforts), Bush and his favorite vanilla apologist (First Lady Laura, as opposed to his favorite chocolate apologist, First Concubine Condi Rice) were forced to take shelter from a tornado alert (musta been a really scary siren if it was more dangerous than the twister itself) in Texas.

Too bad there is no fallout shelter from Bush for the rest of us.

Postscript: Remember this I posted yesterday from Think Progress about how all those Bush-fan-and-friendly energy companies made sure science teachers would NOT get a free copy of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth":

Saddam Hussein Has Been Hanged

NBC News just broke into programming with a special report.

I do not believe in state-sponsored executions anymore than I believe in murder of any other type. I also have a great many questions about the way he was tried.

Mind you, I am and was not a Saddam fan, let alone an apologist.

But his rushed trial, the order from the Bushies to hand down a guilty verdict with death sentence just before the mid-term elections, and then the rush to execute him just hours after an Iraqi appeals court upheld the verdict to hang him just adds to the very bad, very corrupt smell coming off all this we have done in Iraq.

Expect the violence in Iraq to worsen, if that is possible.

Brains and Background Noise, Plus Ambigrams

[Ed. note: Cross-posted at Cut to the Chase.]
Julie in VT posting at Reason and Brimstone provides a couple of fascinating items I encourage you to explore.

First, she introduces us to ambigrams, or an image that can be "viewed in more than one way based upon how you perceive it." I've copied her example image here.

Then Julie tells us about new information re: how our brains process or tune out background noise:
Last year, Live Science published a nice little summary article (How the Brain Tunes Out Background Noise) about our mental process and how our perceptual process will tend to phase out the aspects of our surroundings which are routine or predictable:
    The "novelty detector neurons," as researchers call them, quickly stop firing if a sound or sound pattern is repeated. They will briefly resume firing if some aspect of the sound changes. The neurons can detect changes in pitch, loudness or duration of a single sound and can also note shifts in the pattern of a complex series of sounds.

    "It is probably a good thing to have this ability because it allows us to tune out background noises like the humming of a car's motor while we are driving or the regular tick-tock of a clock," said study team member Ellen Covey, a psychology professor at the University of Washington. "But at the same time, these neurons would instantly draw a person's attention if their car's motor suddenly made a strange noise or if their cell phone rang."
I'm interested in how this applies to driving-- there's a lot we need to attend to, as drivers, and a lot we don't even notice on a conscious level. How much of what we do when driving is necessary and how much of it is background? Do some people tend to have more trouble with the distractions than others? Do some of us have the ability to better distinguish background noise from necessary information?

Want To Have 5 Seconds Of Fun (Promptly Followed By At Least 5 Hours of Depression)?

[Ed. note: Cross-posted at Cut to the Chase.]

Check out how you rank - and believe me, mine was most rank - on the Global Rich List.

Thanks to Jack McCullough of Rational Resistance for the link.

[Hint: If depression isn't your thing, try imagining how someone in the U.S. who earns only the current federal minimum wage per hour rates. Then compare that against the few cents a day paid many in both under- and over-developed countries for truly back-breaking and gruesome and downright dangerous 12-16 hour shifts. Well, wait, that trick didn't make me feel any better.... never mind.]

"Yes, There Are Homeless People Living In Vermont"

With a daytime high here in north central Vermont barely hitting double digits (a toasty 10.1 Fahrenheit right now), it can be very difficult to imagine anyone surviving homelessness here. Yet, for all its wealth, many Vermonters do NOT have a place to call a home of any kind.

Read Morgan Brown's thoughtful information on this topic of homelessness posted at Green Mountain Daily.

Have A Blog, Want To Be Listed On This Blogroll?

While much of the blog roll listed on the right-hand sidebar comes from my Vermont links at Cut to the Chase, I'd be more than happy to list just about any Vermont blog. [Yes, even those blogs and their bloggers with a different political bent than mine!]

Drop a note here in comments or send me email (also listed on the sidebar).

A Community Blog For Tiny Woodbury, Vermont

The dynamic woman, Patricia Tedesco, who invited me to give a blogging program at the Woodbury Community Library this past fall, is gathering suggestions and information with a thought toward starting a community blog for Woodbury.

I think it's a marvelous idea, especially important in such a small place where the annual first-Tuesday-in-March town meeting day is about the only way most residents come together. Unless you have kids in school or happen to work in one of the few local jobs, it's easy to miss local information altogether.

I dropped her a note offering any help I can provide.

If you're a Woodbury resident who would love to see something like this and/or you have some suggestions, drop me a note (address at right) with your email or phone number and I'll pass it along to her.

Also, if you happen to be involved in a community blog in another part of Vermont, I'd love to hear about it, with a mind toward what may happen here.

What Are The "Top Vermont Stories Of The Year"?

Brought to us by Jon Odum at Green Mountain Daily:
The Times Argus AP (thanks for the catch, Nat) has its list of the top 10 stories of 2006 out. Some are rather broad categories of stories ("congress race," "Vermont Yankee"), some are clearly news stories that belong on such a list ("Cashman controversy," "school shooting," "Fell sentenced"), while the "tire burn" story probably doesn't belong in the top ten, in my own opinion.

All told, though, some significant news stories probably should've been on that list - or at the very least, should be mentioned in the same strata. Here then, are what I believe to be the top 10 stories not included on the AP's list (not necessarily in order of prominence or priority). Some of them were big splash items, while some simply did not receive the attention they probably should have, but were significant events whose impact may be underestimated or underappreciated by the traditional media.
After you read the list, what would YOU add or remove? I can think of a few, but I'd love to hear what others suggest first.

A Brit Blogger's View of Blair's Failures and Self-Deception On Iraq

[Ed. note: While this blog focuses on Vermont, the Iraq War hurts us all. So while this post originally appears at our sister blog at Cut to the Chase, I've cross-posted it here.]

Despite the way most American blogs focus solely on the corruption and deceptions of the Bush Administration re: Iraq and other issues, bloggers located across the pond in our "partner" country in the coalition of the killingwilling (ah, what a phrase) have a few powerful, angry thoughts to share as well.

For example, here's this from Ian Westbrook of Great Britain's Apocalypse Times blog:
Another day, another UK serviceman killed: and only days after the commanding officer of the UK forces in southern Iraq spoke of the lack of support for the army and the 'covenant' which exists - or should exist - between the army and the people of the UK.

This is an army which has inadequate body armour, not enough helicopters, guns prone to jamming from desert sands, battlefield radios prone to breaking down...

Whatever one thinks of the Iraq war, one must support the brave men and women who have been sent there by Blair to fight it. Any illegality surrounding the war - and resultant criminal liability - rests with Blair, not with soldiers, who simply followed their orders as soldiers will.

And why are they so badly equipped? Because Blair would rather spend £15bn (or is it £20bn? Or £25bn? Or - as John Pilger thought in a recent Staggers piece - £76bn?) on upgrading Trident. Blair won't address the needs of the army in Iraq because he would like nothing better than to pretend that the war isn't happening. Because, of course, every mention of Iraq inevitably leads to why the war was waged in the first place, and that inevitably leads to the non-existent WMDs, and that inevitably leads to the fact that the Prime Minister is a lying, war criminal piece of shit who should at the very least have resigned in 2003 when it became abundantly obvious that the WMDs weren't there (although now of course nothing less than a lengthy prison term and complete humiliation and disgrace will satisfy people like me).

So Blair would rather waste vast amounts of money on a grand gesture (one not related at all to You-Know-Where) which he hopes will form a part of his legacy, while UK troops have taken and will continue to take casualties as a result. Yet more blood on the hands of the most incompetent, delusional and criminal PM ever to occupy 10 Downing Street...
Thanks to Minor Ripper for the pointer to Apocalypse Times which will now appear on our blogroll at Cut to the Chase.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Welcome to Cut to the Chase: Green Mountain Edition

While the main blog remains here, I've started this "sister" blog specifically for news and comments that affect Vermonters first and foremost.