Monthly Archives: May 2007

Sgt. Kokesh Goes to K. C.

Sgt. Adam Kokesh has exhibited great courage in telling the Marine Corps brass attempting to impinge his free speech rights to go fuck themselves.

Sgt. Adam Kokesh has been honorably discharged from the Marine Corps after his “second activation as a reservist” and service in Iraq. It seems that his work with the Iraq Veterans Against the War has irritated the Marine Corps brass, which is now attempting to discharge Kokesh again, this time dishonorably.

Kokesh isn’t rolling over.

I think it’s a great story.

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Enhanced Interrogation Techniques = Verschärfte Vernehmung

Andrew Sullivan, in his excellent blog The Daily Dish, reports that the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by Bush administration to describe its torturing techniques is equivalent to the German phrase “Verschärfte Vernehmung”, “concocted” by the Nazis. Not only are the phrases used to describe the techniques the same, but many of the actual “techniques” employed are the same.

A number of Nazis were sentenced to death by post-WW II war crimes tribunals for employing such “techniques” on non-uniformed enemy combatants.

“The phrase ‘Verschärfte Vernehmung’ is German for ‘enhanced interrogation’. Other translations include ‘intensified interrogation’ or ‘sharpened interrogation’. It’s a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.”

Sullivan completes his report with:

“Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I’m not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn’t-somehow-torture – ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ – is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.”

War criminals Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al, and their legal advisers, Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, who justified “enhanced interrogation techniques”, in part arguing that the “enemy combatants” were non-uniformed, will unfortunately likely never suffer the justice visited upon the Nazis war criminals.

Sullivan’s report is well worth a read.

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U of Mass Students and Faculty “Dis-Card”

Raw Story has posted this  report and video of students and faculty of the University of Massachusetts, including some guests on stage, expressing their disapproval of bestowing an honorary degree upon Andrew Card, Bush’s former chief of staff who did his share of lying to sell the criminal war in Iraq.

The scene, for me,  is reminiscent of the ’60s.

Card and Gonzales, it was revealed last week, raced Ashcroft’s Deputy Attorney General to Ashcroft’s hospital bed to ask him to sign off on the administration’s illegal domestic spying. Ashcroft, to his credit, refused.

No Honor for Andrew Card

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Kennedy Assasination

OK, I imagine after reading the header you’re sighing heavily and asking yourself “what is that whacko Brown getting to now”.

Yesterday I was talking to my gringo neighbor, Steve, who relies on short wave radio for news and information. I am as completely unfamiliar with short wave radio as Steve is with computers and the internet, but he reports that he listens a lot to BBC and Radio Netherlands and that the networks carry shows hosted by conspiracy theorists, I supposed one could call them.

Steve reported that he had heard on one of the programs speculation that President Kennedy was assassinated by Texas oil businesspersons concerned that Kennedy planned to end the Oil Depletion Allowance and that Kennedy was acting to deneuter the Federal System, through issuance of Executive Order 11110, and he asked me to research the claims through the internet.

During the conversation Steve asked who I believe killed President Kennedy. I responded that of course I don’t know; but my guess is that he was killed by organized crime interests and Cuban exiles who had been trained by the CIA for the Bay of Pigs Invasion, otherwise known as UCLAs, Unilaterally Controlled Latino Assets.

Rolling my eyes, I returned to my apartment and searched the internet for information related to the two matters of which he had questions. Predictably, I concluded that both speculations are absolute crap.

Serendipitously, today, as I regularly do, I checked the Granma news website and discovered an article referencing the recently released book “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years” by David Talbot, the founder of Salon, the online magazine. With further searching I came upon this Salon report of the book.

I will leave it to you to read the Salon article if you’re interested; but Talbot reports that almost immediately upon being informed of President Kennedy’s assassination by J. Edgar Hoover, “almost with pleasure, thought Bobby”, Robert Kennedy’s suspicions focused on the mafia, Cuban UCLAs, and the CIA.

Robert Kennedy had been dogging organized crime for almost a decade; the Cuban exile oligarchs were angry with President Kennedy for his failure to provide air support to the Bay of Pigs invasion and for not invading Cuba in response to the Cuban Missile Crises; and the CIA (with George Bush Sr. playing a prominent role in the CIA’s Miami operations, second in magnitude only to CIA headquarters) had developed a close relationship with Cuban UCLAs which it had trained for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

As an aside the Cuban UCLAs later played a role in the Watergate break in, Iran-Contra, and who knows what other nefarious, criminal operations.

I think it’s all worth a read if you’re so inclined.

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Filed under "Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years", Kennedy Assassination

Spectacular Thunder Storm

We are having a spectacular thunder storm here this afternoon (it is about 4:25), which so far has included the loudest thunderclap I have ever experienced.   It shook me.

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My Trip to Guanajuato

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Nestled in a bowl amongst the semi-arid hills of, what I think is considered, the Central Mexican Highlands is the lovely city of Guanajuato. The very tidy, vibrant city is rich in history, architecture, museums, theaters, universities, and references to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and his Quijote de Mancha.

I traveled to Guanjauto early last week by intercity bus, taking the ADO line from Xalapa to Mexico City and the ETN line to Guanajuato. Thanks to my sister-in-law; I’ve not seen in twenty five years; and my wonderfully grounded niece, I’ve not seen in ten, for the invitation to join them in their visit.

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The Mexican intercity bus system, like its intracity systems with which I am familiar, is comprehensive and economical. The luxurious ADO GL bus I took for the four and a half hour trip to Mexico City was $246 pesos; and included a very comfortable seat, a refreshment, and a movie. The even more luxurious ETN bus I took for the four hour trip to Guanajuato was $350, had only three seats across the cabin, padded leg rests, and included a sandwich, refreshment, and movie. There are, I learned, less expensive carriers which I did not find online but of which I learned at the stations.

There are four major intercity bus stations in Mexico City. I changed buses at the Mexico Norte station on the way to Guanjuato and on the way back took a $75 pesos taxi trip from the Norte station to the TAPO station in the East part of the City. The TAPO station was quite nice and convenient, constructed in a circle with the various terminals radiating from the circle; and with restaurants and an internet café at the center.

I had a tasty, authentic breakfast at the Norte station served by a friendly fellow who speaks English quite well. He explained that he had lived for a time in Salt Lake City where he operated a stucco business which employed six folks and where his wife and child continue to reside. He had been expelled from the USA by the immigration service and his wife is now processing the paperwork necessary for his return, a process, he said, would take three months to a year.

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I arrived in Guanajuato about midday last Monday and, after a $50 peso cab ride, checked into my room at El Castillo de Santa Ceclia, a sprawling castle complex of stone and brick, complete with arches, towers, surrounding defensive walls, and suits of armor standing guard in the common spaces. One could even ascend a tower, via a spiral staircase, to the top of the entrance gate and enjoy a panorama of the city below.

Santa Cecilia, I have since read, is the patron saint of musicians and of the blind.

hotelstatue.jpgThere is in the hotel courtyard a bronze statue of Quijote de Mancha, which, the accompanying sign explained, was symbol of liberty. I later learned that the city hosts an annual Cervantes festival and encountered references to Cervantes and Don Quixote statues throughout the Centro area.

I should also note that the hotel provides wireless internet service which one can access while sitting on the patio around the pool enjoying a morning cup of coffee from the Extra store around the corner. The hotel restaurant offered coffee that was tepid and a bit insubstantial for my taste at $20 pesos per cup, thus the morning trip to Extra.

aliciaarmor.jpgThe hotel was at about only 20 % occupancy, as it is now the off season. I was told that the hotel is full during August and September, as well as during Semana Santa and Christmas.

When I again visit Guanajuato I will seek out more economical accommodations in one of the many older Centro hotels, but a stay at the rather pricey El Castillo ($120 USA per night) is well worth the experience.

Guanajuato and the nearby pueblo of Dolores Hidalog figured prominently in the revolutionary war that ultimately ended Spanish colonial rule. The Alhondiga de Granadies (granary), now a museum in the city, was the scene of the opening battle of the Mexican revolution, a couple of weeks after Father Miguel Hidalgo issued his famous El Grito, or call to arms, from a balcony in Dolores Hidalgo on September 10, 1810.

largestaturonhill.jpgTowering over the city is a huge, cantera stone statue of El Pipila, Juan Jose de los Reyes Martinez, who on September 28, 1810 set fire to the gates of the Alhondiga de Granadies, where Spanish soldiers were stationed, enabling rebel forces to enter the granary and to win the first battle of the revolutionary war.

There are at least three major theaters (below is the El Teatro Juarez) in Guanajuato, many museums, and the University of Guanajuato, all contributing to a rich art and musical atmosphere. The buildings housing the theaters, museums and university feature locally quarried beautiful pink and green caltera stone, as are the opulent churches in both Guanajuato and Dolores Hidalgo.

teatrojuarez.jpgCantera stone, a well as brick, was used also to construct the deep, arched beams that support the streets and building above Calle Hidalgo, a subterranean, serpentine roadway network constructed in 1965 through a river bed under the city, with the aim of relieving traffic congestion on Centro streets.

City buses ply the tunnels taking on and discharging passengers waiting at the many underground bus stops accessed by periodic stone stairways to the surface. It is a quite stunning engineering, construction, and artistic feat.

microbrewpubstainedglass.jpgThere are a number of well tended plazas and parks in Centro Guanajuato, surrounded by cafes with outdoor seating, pubs, and shops. Particularly in the evenings these public areas are filled with families, university students, diners and shoppers. The parks and plazas also provide a location for some of the public art that pervades the city.

microbrewpubstill.jpgFronting on the Jardin Union, the largest downtown park, we encountered a pub which featured beer and 100% blue agave tequila brewed and distilled in a nearby city. The pub offered four beers, one which included tequila and lime, one which included coffee and chocolate, and more conventional dark and light beers. The street side entry way of the beautiful colonial building housing the pub contained a sales room for a variety of fine 100% blue agave tequila and gifts, and in the rear was a beautiful antique bar in which was an old copper still and a stained glass ceiling. It was all very well and very beautifully done.

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Amongst Guanajauto’s many museums is the four story home of famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera, where there is on display many, many of Rivera’s works, as well as some of those of his wife Frida Kahlo and three of his students. Rivera moved with his family when fairly young to Mexico City, where he entered art school at the age of eleven. He was officially shunned for many years because of his communistic sympathies but is now recognized for the exceptional artist he was. The museum is well worth a visit.

I also visited the Museo de las Momias, the famous mummy museum. There seem to be various explanations as to why the bodies were disinterred but the bodies were apparently naturally mummified as the crypts in which they were buried were sealed such that oxygen was not present to enable the growth of agents of decomposition.

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Amongst the other museums in the city, which I did not visit, are the Alhondiga de Granadias; Casa de las Leyendas, a museum of legends I’m told is fun; the nearby Mina de Valenciana, a still active mining operation; a couple of haciendas; and the Museo Iconografico del Cervatnes.

Guanajuato annually celebrates Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the author of Don Quixote. I was told by a taxi driver that 30 or so years ago some university students conducted some sort of Cervantes celebration and that some time later the city adopted the cause. Today the city contains many references to Cervantes and a number of statues of Quijote de Mancha. I guess I will now have to read the book.

hidalgotalavera.jpgA visit to Guanajuato, I think, would not be complete without a bus ride to the nearby historic pueblo of Dolores Hidalgo, famous not only for Hidalgo’s El Grito but also for its brightly painted talavera ceramics. The bus may be boarded along the Avenida de Valenciana. Look for a bus with Hildalgo noted on the front window.

Colonial centro Hidalgo includes a beautiful, tidy central plaza across the street from a truly magnificent cathedral (and, given the grand cathedrals in every Mexican city and pueblo, that’s really saying something). The church is constructed entirely of pink cantera stone, with the stone around the entry way intricately carved.

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Hidalgo has shop after shop vending talavera ceramic bowls, planters, dishware, shot glasses, ashtrays, and etc., etc., etc. One shop had an entire talavera bathroom set, including a toilet, basin, and towel and toilet paper racks. Should I ever build a house here, I will definitely go to Dolores Hidalgo and fill my little pickup with tiles and household furnishing.

hidalgocityhall.jpgI don’t know what else to report, except that I will certainly return to Guanajuato for further explorations, as I like it very much. Even better, though, than exploring the city was spending time with and getting to know my sister-in-law and niece.

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Filed under Guanajuato, Mexico, Travel

Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS)

imsscard0001.jpgIMSS is the Mexican national health insurance agency.

As I think I reported here a couple of months ago I accompanied my gringo neighbor, Steve, to the local IMSS office to provide translation services for the renewal of his IMSS enrollment. While there I inquired as to what is required for me to enroll.

A few weeks ago I took copies of all of the documents I thought were necessary to apply for enrollment. As it turned out I was told that I must have my birth certificate translated into Spanish and was informed that I could have it translated down the street at the Centro de Idiomas (language school) of the University of Veracruz. So off I went.

The teacher with whom I met at the Centro de Imiomas indicated I could return the next day to pick up the translated document. When I returned she informed me that there were a couple items she wasn’t able to read from the 1970 photocopy of my birth certificate and asked me to make corrections. I corrected three items, such as my father’s middle name and the name of the street where my family lived at the time of my birth, the teacher promptly made the corrections, had the office director certify the translation, I paid $250 pesos, and I was on my way.

Today I returned to the IMSS office with copies of my passport and FM 3 visa, the translated birth certificate, 2 frontal head shot photos, and copies of my cable TV bill. Within 10 minutes after entering the office the fellow helping me had completed the necessary paperwork and escorted me to the outer office where I would receive the premium invoice, which I would take to and pay at the bank next door. Generally fees for governmental services here are paid at a bank. I waited in line, with my service number in hand, for about fifteen minutes when I was beckoned to the service counter where the invoices are produced. Within five minutes I had the invoice in hand and was off to the bank next door.

I waited in line at the bank for about 10 minutes, paid the $1,930.44 peso fee ($180. USA) for one year of health insurance coverage, received my receipt, went across the street to obtain two copies of the payment receipt, and crossed back across the street to the IMSS office.

I provided a copy of the receipt to the outer office service counter, went back to the office of the fellow who had completed the initial paperwork and gave him the other copy of the receipt, and within 10 minutes he handed me my enrollment card, upon which visits for medical attention are recorded, and my copies of the paperwork. That was it. All-in-all, it took about an hour or so.
As of June 1 I will be enrolled in the IMSS health insurance system. Next May I must renew my coverage and pay the annual fee, which, incidentally, is now $2,905 pesos for those over the age of 60.

As with my experiences with the immigration offices here and in Merida, the folks who attended to my IMSS application were uniformly very pleasant and efficient.

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