Friday, March 11, 2005


Health Care versus Bankruptcy

Dave Horsey on Compassionate Conservatism.


Government of Men, Not Laws

Rather than admit in open court that they cannot legally justify holding many of Guantanamo Bay's current inmates - the Pentagon plans on shipping them off to places where they can be kept away from such "quaint" concepts as justice, including spots the US State department itself criticized for routinely torturing prisoners:
Pentagon Seeks to Transfer More Detainees From Base in Cuba

Published: March 11, 2005

WASHINGTON, March 10 - The Pentagon is seeking to enlist help from the State Department and other agencies in a plan to cut by more than half the population at its detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in part by transferring hundreds of suspected terrorists to prisons in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen, according to senior administration officials.

The transfers would be similar to the renditions, or transfers of captives to other countries, carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency, but are subject to stricter approval within the government, and face potential opposition from the C.I.A. as well as the State and Justice Departments, the officials said.

Administration officials say those agencies have resisted some previous handovers, out of concern that transferring the prisoners to foreign governments could harm American security or subject the prisoners to mistreatment.
...Transfers have been approved by the State Department to countries including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, identified in the department's own human rights reports as nations where the use of torture in prisons is common.
(Source: New York Times (Emphasis added.)

Is there no end to the outrage?

Meanwhile, the Defense Department's internal investigation seems to conclude superior officers are not responsible when subordinates torture prisoners:
Report on prisoner abuse raises questions of accountability
By Frank Davies
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - A new report on the interrogation of prisoners in the war on terrorism, released Thursday by the Defense Department, prompted senators to question whether senior civilian and military leaders will be held accountable for abusive treatment.

Vice Adm. Albert Church, the Navy's former inspector general, defended his report as a "thorough, exhaustive look" at 71 "substantiated cases of abuse" involving about 120 detainees held in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.

Church told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a lack of guidelines and oversight, bad planning and a slow response to Red Cross warnings of abuse contributed to the mistreatment of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq.

...He said he agreed with a key finding of the independent report by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger last year that abuses were "widespread," and that "there is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels."

Church added, however: "I was not tasked to assess personal responsibility at senior levels."
Critics of the inquiries into prisoner abuse charge that the Bush administration and the Pentagon have sidestepped the issue of "command climate." They ask whether the push for better intelligence encouraged lower-ranking soldiers to regard prisoners as sub-human and treat them harshly. Many also ask why investigators have all but ignored the military principle that senior officers are always accountable for their subordinates' actions.
Human Rights Watch, which monitors prisoner abuse worldwide, criticized the report as a "whitewash." Church, at a later briefing at the Pentagon, said some people "were just unhappy with the findings."
Source: Knight-Ridder Washington Bureau March 10, 2005 (Emphasis added.)


Bankruptcy Bill in Pictures

What's this bankruptcy protection made of?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Lebanese Democracy = Hezbollah?

Oh, dear - it looks like the wave of democracy sweeping Lebanon isn't quite what Paul Wolfowitz envisioned:
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hundreds of thousands jammed a central Beirut square Tuesday, chanting support for Syria and anti-U.S. slogans in a thundering show of strength by the militant group Hezbollah — a rally that greatly outnumbered recent demonstrations against Syria's presence in Lebanon.
Hezbollah, an anti-Israeli party representing Shiite Muslims, organized the rally as a way of demonstrating that it will remain a powerful force in Lebanon even if Syria leaves. The Lebanese opposition, which opposes Syria's presence, has been trying to persuade Hezbollah to remain neutral in the country's political crisis.

Hezbollah is the best armed and organized faction in Lebanon and enjoys strong support among the country's Shiite community, which at 1.2 million is a third of the population. Respect for it extends beyond the Shiites because of its years of fighting against Israel.
Source: Yahoo! News Thousands Answer Hezbollah Call in Beirut March 8, 2005

Some argue Bush and Wolfowitz intended this result. Alas, I doubt two such strongly pro-Israel guys planned for Hezbollah to gain so strong a voice in Lebanese affairs.

= = = = = = = = = =
= = = = = = = = = =
Juan Cole has more:
The simplistic master narrative constructed by the partisans of President George W. Bush held that the January 30 elections were a huge success, and signalled a turn to democracy in the Middle East. Then the anti-Syrian demonstrations were interpreted as a yearning for democracy inspired by the Iraqi elections.

This interpretation is a gross misunderstanding of the situation in the Middle East. Bush is not pushing with any real force for democratization of Saudi Arabia (an absolute monarchy) or Pakistan (where the elected parliament demands in vain that General Pervez Musharraf take off his uniform if he wants to be president), or Tunisia (where Zayn Ben Ali has just won his 4th unopposed term as president), etc. Democratization is being pushed only for regimes that Bush dislikes, such as Syria or Iran. The gestures that Mubarak of Egypt made (officially recognized parties may put up candidates to run against him, but not popular political forces like the Muslim Brotherhood) are empty.

In fact the (Iraqi) Jan. 30 Iraqi elections were deeply flawed. 42 percent of the electorate did not show up. The elections could only be held by locking down the country for 3 days, forbidding all vehicular traffic to stop car bombings. The electorate had no idea for whom they were voting, since the candidates' names were secret until the last moment. The Sunni Arabs boycotted or were prevented from voting by the ongoing guerrilla war, which started right back up after the ban on traffic lapsed.
Source: Juan Cole's Informed Comment (Emphasis added.)


The China Syndrome

Smart money says gasoline prices will skyrocket this (non-election year) summer. Why? CHINA:
Chinese oil demand will grow by 33 percent more than previously forecast this year, the statistics arm of the U.S. Department of Energy said Tuesday, because the expected drop in demand for fuel to run power generators hasn't materialized.

"That was the worst-case scenario for oil prices," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago. "The great hope was that China demand was going to trail off."
Source: Washington Post Oil Futures Trade Briefly Above $55 Per Barrel Mar 8, 2005

Now our oil addiction has given both China AND the Saudis a hammer lock on us. And China holds all that US debt, too. I wonder which one will use their leverage first?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


"A Modest Proposal" for the 21st Century

Blogger MaxSpeak posted some interesting information about a new economic indicator:
The American dogs and cats enjoyed a much larger advantage in their living standards over many individual LICs. The advantage over Sierra Leoneans was 4.8 to one; 4.1 over Tanzanians; 2.8 over Nigerians; 1.3 over Bangladeshis; and 1.2 over Pakistanis. The average Indian had a small advantage of 1.1 over American dogs and cats. The Chinese had a larger lead of 2.0. It is heartening to note that these disparities are considerably smaller than the yawning gaps that emerge when we compare people in the rich countries against people in the poor countries.

One might think that these more upbeat comparisons give reasons for optimism for the world's poor. Given the smaller disparities between the poor people and rich pets, the poor people can at least dream that once the great humanitarian project of globalization begins to yield its trickle-down benefits to the poor, they will, in the not-too-distant future, be able to catch up with the dogs and cats in the United States.
Source: M. Shahid Alam Global Disparities: Of People And Pets Mar. 6, 2005

This does seem to be even more of A Modest Proposal than Jonathan Swift's classic economic essay...


Gonzales Defends "Renditions"

Yes, Alberto "no video, no torture" Gonzales strongly supports sending people off to countries that promise not to "torture" them:
Gonzales Defends Transfer of Detainees
By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2005; Page A03

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales yesterday defended the practice of "extraordinary rendition," the process under which the United States sometimes transfers detainees in the war on terrorism to other nations where they may undergo harsh interrogation, trial or imprisonment.
...Gonzales, speaking to reporters at the Justice Department yesterday, said that U.S. policy is not to send detainees "to countries where we believe or we know that they're going to be tortured."
Gonzales added yesterday that if a country has a history of torture, Washington seeks additional assurances that it will not be used against the transferred detainee.

At the same time, (Gonzales) said, the administration "can't fully control" what other nations do, according to accounts of his remarks by wire services. He added that he does not know whether countries have always complied with their promises.
(Emphasis added.)

The US State Department's Report on Human Rights in 2004 had some information on whether such promises were broken:
The State Department report also harshly attacked the treatment of prisoners in such countries as Syria and Egypt, where the United States has shipped terrorism suspects under a practice known as "rendition." An Australian citizen has alleged that under Egyptian detention he was hung by his arms from hooks, repeatedly shocked, nearly drowned and brutally beaten. Most of his fingernails were missing when he later arrived at Guantanamo Bay.

Bush administration officials have said they never intend for captives to be tortured and seek pledges from foreign governments that they will treat detainees humanely.
Source: Washington Post State Dept. Study Cites Torture of Prisoners Mar 1, 2005. (Emphasis added.)
Then, too, the Bush Administration does not believe pulling someone's fingernails out is really torture anyway, as it is not "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." (Source: Washington Post Memo Offered Justification for Use of Torture June 8, 2004.) PDF copy of memo available from the June 13, 2004 Washington Post Article titled: Justice Dept. Memo Says Torture 'May Be Justified'

Short version: If those whiners lived through the "harsh interrogation" then it wasn't torture. Besides, everyone knows it's only torture if someone publishes pictures of it...

Sunday, March 06, 2005


Picture Worth 1,000 US Human Rights Reports

Check out this political cartoon by Stuart Carlson

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