Friday, February 11, 2005


Torture or "Heart Attack" ???

A 29-year old man suspected of terrorist links died after 10 days in Kuwaiti custody. The reported cause of death was a heart attack. (Source: BBC "Top Militant dies in Kuwaiti Jail" 2/9/05)

Oddly enough, some people are paranoid enough to think he may have died while under torture just because heart attacks are quite rare among 29-year olds that aren't being questioned using methods the Bush Administration assures us are not torture:
A suspected Islamic militant leader who died in a Kuwaiti jail suffered heart failure and did not die under torture, the country's interior minister said.

Sheikh Nawaf al-Sabah said there was no evidence of maltreatment and a forensic report would prove that Amer al-Enezi died from low blood pressure.

Mr Enezi, who was 29, was reported dead on Wednesday, 10 days after his arrest.
According to Kuwaiti media reports, Enezi confessed to the plot during interrogation and admitted his group had links with al-Qaeda...
Source: BBC "Kuwait Denies Torture Claim" Feb. 10, 2005 (Emphasis in original)
Only the truly cynical would point to such news reports as these:

Two Afghan prisoners were killed while in US custody at their base at Bagram, a military coroner has concluded.

The report said "blunt force trauma" had contributed to the deaths.

Last month, human rights groups accused the US Government of subjecting the prisoners to physical abuse leading to a number of deaths and attempted suicides in custody.

Washington described the allegations of torture as "ridiculous"

The US spokesman at Bagram said the two men who died there had been under allied custody for about 10 days altogether.

The first man died on 3 December after a blood clot in his lungs, and the second died a week later after developing blood clots as well as suffering a heart attack.
Source: BBC: "Prisoners 'Killed' at US Base" Mar. 6, 2003 (Emphasis in Original)

And later this:
The US army has charged a military police sergeant with assault and dereliction of duty in connection with the deaths of two Afghan prisoners.

Sergeant James Boland was a guard at the Bagram air base north of Kabul where the two Afghans died.

A military coroner had concluded that they died due to trauma suffered after receiving "blunt-force" injuries.
The first man died after developing a blood clot in his lungs. The second died a week later after developing blood clots as well as suffering a heart attack.
Source: BBC "US Soldier Charged with Assault" Sept. 2, 2004.
I suppose it is an odd coincidence, though, that suspected terrorists in both Afganistan and Kuwait suffered heart attacks after one or two weeks in custody.

Oh, and that "confession" of links to Al Qaeda? People used to "confess" to practicing witchcraft under similar interrogation practices. (Assuming there even was a "confession." Police throughout history have been known to stretch the truth {"gild the lily"} about alleged confessions, especially when explaining a suspect's unfortunate death while in custody.) Two things we can be sure of:
1) Any information gained using torture is pretty worthless because most folks will "confess" to anything after a while to stop the pain, and;

2) Al Qaida and the rest of the Islamic militant organizations will use this guy's fate in their recruiting efforts.
Bottom line: both Mr. Bush and Osama bin Ladin think they're winning as a result of the United State's chosen anti-terror tactics. Given Mr. Bush's at best tenuous grasp on reality, it is likely that we're winning each battle but setting ourselves up to lose the overall war. (Think of the German Army's string of victories while marching up to the gates of Moscow. Overconfidence and over-extension leading to the Germans' complete and utter defeat. Now think of what an oil embargo coupled with a Chinese / Iranian alliance could do to us...)

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Bush Bringing Troops Home Through Iran

The Borowitz Report has details:
Under pressure to detail an exit strategy for Iraq, President George W. Bush said at a White House briefing today that he would not designate an exact timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. troops but added, “The fastest way to bring the troops home would be through Iran.”

After reporters audibly gasped, the president explained that bringing the troops home through Iran would be “the most direct route” and produced driving directions from Mapquest to back up his claim.

But less than an hour after his remarks, Iranian president Mohammed Khatami blasted Mr. Bush’s exit strategy, arguing that bringing U.S. troops home through Iran was far from the most direct route, and was, in fact, going totally in the wrong direction.

Yes, I know it's satire - but I could also see Mr. Bush actually trying this argument out, too. It isn't much more outrageous than some of Bush's other policy justifications.

SF Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll:
Now that it appears that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani is the big winner in the Iraq elections, perhaps it's time to get up close and personal with our new best friend. Please do surf on over to and learn more about the Shiite whom everyone loves to love.
I corrected the above link to the English site, and am adding it to the sidebar. Seems like a good source on what Ali Al-Sistani is saying without having it filtered by the pundits first.


UN Convention Against Torture "Just a Scrap of Paper"

Well, we all knew it was happening - now there's an ex-CIA official confirming our fears:

CIA prisoners 'tortured' in Arab jails
By Stephen Grey
BBC Radio 4's File on 4

A former CIA official has confirmed suspicions that dozens of terror suspects have been flown to jails in Middle Eastern countries where torture is routinely practised, and without reference to courts of law.

Michael Scheuer, who once headed the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and left the CIA last November after a 22-year career, said the practice, known as "extraordinary rendition", was seen by the US as a key tactic in its war on terror.

Mr Scheuer said the operation was authorised at the highest levels of the CIA and the White House and was approved by their lawyers.

The former CIA officer acknowledged that some of the suspects sent to places such as Egypt could then be tortured.

But he said: "It wouldn't be us torturing them and I think there is a lot of Hollywood involved with our portrayal of torture in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

"Human rights is a very flexible concept... It depends how hypocritical you want to be on a particular day."

Human rights campaigners, however, find it difficult to reconcile rendition with President Bush's claims of upholding the United Nations convention against torture. It says: "No state shall expel, return or exradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."
Source: BBC
(Emphasis added)

Some of the right-wing blogs believe the rest of us actually want Iran to have atomic weapons and that we want terrorists to attack. This springs from their unhealthy habit of listening to their own propaganda. In fact, the rest of us think Iran is less likely to pursue a nuclear weapons program if they believe there are other means of keeping the United States from overthrowing their democratically elected government (again) and putting in a puppet regime.

We also believe the best way to recruit terrorists to attack the United States is for the United States to continue sweeping up people of military age and torturing them until they "confess.

The blowback from the CIA's Iran coup putting the Shah back in power was the hostage crisis. Mr. Bush's disregard for everything this country used to stand for is setting us all up for a blowback of a size too frightening to contemplate.


Another Overzealous Republican Aide?

Somehow, the Republicans have lots of overzealous aides. There's the anonymous aide blamed for excluding non-Republicans from Mr. Bush's recent tour touting the Charles Keating Memorial Social Security Reformation, and now this one:
Probe Sought Of O'Malley Affair Rumors
Assembly Democrats Doubt Ehrlich Aide Worked Alone
By Matthew Mosk and Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writers

Thursday, February 10, 2005; Page A01

Maryland's legislative leaders said yesterday that they do not believe that a longtime aide to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) worked alone to circulate rumors about the personal life of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, and they called for an independent investigation.
Democratic leaders said they were appalled to learn of efforts, as described in Steffen's e-mails, to circulate a story that the mayor had fathered a child with a Baltimore television reporter and separated from his wife.
The governor has denied any knowledge of a campaign to spread the rumors, and he asked his chief counsel, Jervis S. Finney, to determine whether Steffen was part of a conspiracy. Several Democratic state lawmakers said they would not be satisfied with an investigation led by (Governor) Ehrlich's lawyer.

"Anybody [in the governor's office] who says they didn't know about it is full of it," said Del. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County).

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said he expects the governor to take immediate steps to prevent the destruction of documents or computer files that might help in understanding Steffen's role in three state jobs he has held since Ehrlich took office in 2003.

Ehrlich told reporters that he would preserve and make public those records. He said he believes that Steffen was acting on his own when he sent the e-mails and posted messages spreading gossip about the mayor on a conservative Web site,
Source: Washington Post

Interestingly, the Free Republic folks did not feel that they owed Mr. O'Malley the type of apology Dan Rather gave after airing a report based on questionable sources.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


"They'll say anything to get a bill passed..."

It appears the curtains are being ripped away from both Michael Jackson's and George Bush's fantasy-based lifestyles at the same time. Mikey's got the trial thing happening, and the true cost of Mr. Bush's Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit is coming out:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 - The Bush administration offered a new estimate of the cost of the Medicare drug benefit on Tuesday, saying it would cost $720 billion in the next 10 years.

That is much more than the $400 billion Congress assumed when it passed legislation creating the benefit in late 2003.

But administration officials said the numbers were not comparable. The original estimate was for the years 2004 to 2013. The new estimate covers the period from 2006, when the drug benefit becomes available, to 2015.
Source: New York Times, New White House Estimate Lifts Drug Benefit Cost to $720 Billion

In other words, the original 10-year estimate started two years before the program would even begin paying benefits, so it was actually an 8-year cost estimate spread out over 10 years. Worse, it deliberately understated the "Baby Boomer" effect of a larger percentage of the population qualifying for benefits - the same effect so thoroughly hyped in Mr. Bush's "Charles Keating Memorial Social Security Reformation Package."

Some Democrats actually stated the obvious - Bush's cost estimates for converting Social Security from an insurance program to a defined benefit program are probably a steaming load of bovine-derived organic fertilizer:

(Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois) said: "The new cost estimate destroys the credibility of the Bush administration. Officials were so far off in estimating the cost of the Medicare law. Why should we believe what they say about the financial problems of Social Security?"

Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said: "I told you so. We can't trust numbers provided by administration officials. They'll say anything to get a bill passed. And if the new drug benefit costs more, the extra money goes to their friends in the pharmaceutical industry, not to senior citizens.
Source: New York Times
Even Republicans expressed concerns:

"Since it was sold as a $400 billion program, that's what we should keep it at," Mr. Gregg (Republican of New Hampshire) said."
Source: New York Times

Interestingly, if you take the original (hidden) estimate of $530 billion over 8 years of paid benefits as in the 2004 - 2013 estimate, then extrapolate that annual cost for 10 years, you get $663 billion over 10 years. Given the greying Baby Boomers, the $720 billion isn't a surprising overage over the TRUE numbers.

"An intelligent victor will, when possible, present his demands to the vanquished in installments." attributed to Adolph Hitler


The Power of the Market

George Bush's "Charles Keating Memorial Social Security Reformation Package" wants you to trust guys like these with your retirement savings:
WorldCom's ex-boss Bernie Ebbers ordered adjustments to the firm's books, the telecoms firm's ex-financial chief has told a Manhattan court.

Scott Sullivan is the prosecution's key witness against Mr Ebbers, who has denied charges of fraud and conspiracy in relation to WorldCom's collapse.

In his second day of testimony, Mr Sullivan said his ex-boss repeatedly told him: "We have to hit our numbers".
Source: BBC article Worldcom Boss 'Ordered Fraud'

For those who don't recall Charles Keating, he was a prime mover in the collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan during the big S&L scandal during the 80's. Lots of people lost their life's savings and were reduced to living on nothing but their Social Security checks.

If we had all the billions of dollars stolen by during S&L deregulation scandal (yet another Reagan-era triumph) by free-market hucksters, Social Security would be rolling in money.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Theocracy Via Democracy

The "democratic process" yields school boards pushing religious concepts like "intelligent design" in the US. In Iraq, it is increasingly apparent the "will of the Iraqi people" is to live under a constitution imposing Muslim religious law on its people. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani will apparently control Iraq's new constitution's content. Knight-Ridder News has more:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The main parties of a cleric-led political ticket set to sweep elections in Iraq are planning to vet their prime minister candidates with the nation's top Shiite Muslim cleric.

And the cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, will oversee the drafting of the constitution if he is unhappy with the direction it is taking, a lead al-Sistani spokesman, Murtadha al Kashmiri, said Sunday.


Many in Iraq are growing worried that the sectarian rift between Shiites and the minority Sunni Muslim population may widen to the point that it causes massive unrest. And the increasing calls for Islamic-based rule in Iraq stand to disrupt, if not derail, U.S. plans for secular democratic rule.
(Source: Knight-Ridder News article titled: Al-Sistani to have detailed involvement in Iraq's political process) (Emphasis added.)

When warned that a democratically elected Iraqi government might implement religious rule, Mr. Bush probably thought this meant Iraqis would seek Jerry Falwell's help in writing Iraq's new constitution.
- - - - - - - - - - -

Informed Comment's Juan Cole notes that according to a Sistani representative: Sistani representative was at the press conference at which the spokesman for Grand Ayatollah al-Fayyad denounced any attempt to separate religion and state in Iraq. The statement attributed to Sistani was therefore not his. On the other hand, the source denied that there was any difference of opinion among the grand ayatollahs on this matter, and said that all were agreed that Islam should be the principle source of legislation, and that no laws should be passed that contravened Islam. Sistani's representative did reaffirm, however, the grand ayatollah's commitment to equality of rights under the law and to pluralism and minority rights. It is just, he said, that since most Iraqis are Muslims, it is inevitable that their law and institutions, which derive from the will of the people, will reflect Islamic culture.
Full post HERE.
It sounds like the Grand Ayatollah has more tolerance for others than does Jerry Falwell. Not surprising, as Christian religious fanatics have historically been more intolerant than Muslims. (When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem, they massacred so many of its men, women and children that the streets ran ankle deep in blood and desecrated the Muslim holy sites. When Saladin later re-captured the city, women and children were mostly spared and the Christian holy sites were turned over to the Eastern branch of Christianity for administration.)

Monday, February 07, 2005


Another of Mr. Bush's Frivolous Asbestos Lawsuits

Yes, another of what Mr. Bush's State of the Union address called "frivolous asbestos lawsuits" has been filed:
W.R. Grace Indicted Over Asbestos Claims

By Bob Anez
Associated Press Writer
Monday, February 7, 2005; 6:03 PM

MISSOULA, Mont. -- W.R. Grace and Co., along with seven of its senior employees, conspired for decades to hide the health dangers posed by the company's asbestos-laced vermiculite mined near Libby, Mont., and intentionally exposed mine workers and others in the small town to illness and death, a federal grand jury indictment released Monday charges.

In the 10-count indictment, top Grace executives and managers are accused of intentionally keeping secret numerous studies spelling out the risk cancer-causing tremolite asbestos posed to its customers, employees and Libby residents.
Source: Washington Post

Another Washington Post article observes:
(W.R. Grace's stock) escaped the usual bankruptcy burial not because of management magic or financial wizardry, but because President Bush and the Republicans who control Congress decided to limit the liability of companies in the asbestos business, which face lawsuits seeking billions of dollars for health damages.
Source: Washington Post "Some Troubled Firms Turned Into Top Performers in 2004" Jan 5, 2005
As with Tom DeLay, I'm sure we'll hear all about how this is "politically motivated." I also hear the 2006 edition of the thesaurus lists "tort reform" as synonymous with "corporate welfare."


Iran: The Third Front

Secretary of State Rice today announced how Mr. Bush plans to start a war with Iran. According to the Guardian:
Condoleezza Rice turned Washington's rhetoric on Iran up another notch yesterday, telling Iranians they would have to "live up to their international obligations" to avoid a conflict with Israel.
Full Article
As noted in my January 25th post "So Much for Plausible Deniability," Israel has already stated it will not attack Iran without first obtaining US approval.

If the US was really interested in getting Iran to stop their nuclear weapons program, they would be making these threats privately. Every time the Bush Administration threatens Iran, the stronger Iran's hard-liners get and the weaker the forces fighting for democracy get. (Kind of like how Bush's approval numbers go up every time Osama bin Ladin threatens the US.)

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Criminal Investigation of CIA Dropped

One would think the Bush administration would prosecute people responsible for the killing a Christian missionary and her 7-month old child. However, not if it happened during a CIA operation:

U.S. Drops Criminal Inquiry of C.I.A. Antidrug Effort in Peru

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 - After a secret three-year investigation, federal prosecutors have decided to end a criminal inquiry into whether at least four Central Intelligence Agency officers lied to lawmakers and their agency superiors about a clandestine antidrug operation that ended in 2001 with the fatal downing of a plane carrying American missionaries, Justice Department officials said this week.

...the inquiry had been seen within the C.I.A. as a message that employees could be held accountable for operations that go awry, at a time when officers at the agency are coming under scrutiny in other areas, like the interrogation and detention of terror suspects.

"A criminal investigation is something that breeds a risk-averse culture at C.I.A.," said a Bush administration official familiar with the case.

Heaven knows we don't want to have the CIA get all bogged down in "quaint" questions like whether torturing people is illegal or not. After all, how can we make the world safe for democracy if our men keep worrying about whether the "Salvador Option" (creating to kill suspected dissidents) violated some law?

Additional information on "The Salvador Option" from the BBC HERE.


Target: IRAN

Maybe Bush feels the only way he can successfully destroy Social Security is to distract us with another war or two. Check out this article: US Senate Panel to Review Iran Intelligence -Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. senators have launched a review of U.S. intelligence on Iran to try to avoid pitfalls that marked the path to the invasion of Iraq, the Los Angeles Times said.

"We have to be more pre-emptive on this committee to try to look ahead and determine our capabilities so that you don't get stuck with a situation like you did with Iraq," Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was quoted as saying.

Has Mr. Bush already made the "GO" decision on the Iran War, or is Republican Sen. Pat Roberts merely saying they want to make sure the neocons don't distort intelligence about Iran the way their "Office of Special Plans" distorted intelligence about Iraq?

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