Friday, March 18, 2005


Have they No Shame???

The Washington Post noted the following litle tidbits:

...Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) expressed skepticism: "Well, some of those policies at one time were to make one have the prisoner feel that they were drowning."

"You're getting into, again," said Goss, "an area of what I will call professional interrogation techniques..."
Source: Washington Post CIA, White House Defend Transfers of Terror Suspects March 18, 2005 (Emphasis added.)
One brave Senator, Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) took a position against such outrageous behavior:
"I have to tell you I am losing a little patience with what appears to me to be an almost pathological obsession with calling into question the actions of men and women who are on the front lines of the war on terror."
Source: Washington Post

Senator Roberts apparently feels it is bad enough that we're outsourcing perfectly good jobs as torturers - but to treat the CIA's practice of kidnapping and torturing folks with the same level of interest as critically important issues like steroid abuse in baseball? SHOCKING!!!

Maybe we can get Amnesty International help counsel those poor, depressed, demoralized torturers, so tragically traumatized by attempted Congressional oversight.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


George "Pontius Pilate" Bush

In the spirit of the Easter season, George Bush is "washing his hands" of responsibility for the torture suffered by those unfortunate enough to be "extraordinarily rendered" to countries where torturing prisoners is commonplace:
CIA's Assurances On Transferred Suspects Doubted
Prisoners Say Countries Break No-Torture Pledges
By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page A01

The system the CIA relies on to ensure that the suspected terrorists it transfers to other countries will not be tortured has been ineffective and virtually impossible to monitor, according to current and former intelligence officers and lawyers, as well as counterterrorism officials who have participated in or reviewed the practice.

To comply with anti-torture laws that bar sending people to countries where they are likely to be tortured, the CIA's office of general counsel requires a verbal assurance from each nation that detainees will be treated humanely, according to several recently retired CIA officials familiar with such transfers, known as renditions.

In "the post-9/11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack," (President Bush) said at a news conference."And one way to do so is to arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won't be tortured. That's the promise we receive. This country does not believe in torture..."
Just as Pontius Pilate knew delivering Jesus to the mob meant torture, President Bush knows these "verbal assurances" are worthless. The Washington Post quoted two CIA officials; one characterized these assurances as "a farce" and another noted: "It's beyond (a farce.) It's widely understood that interrogation practices that would be illegal in the U.S. are being used." The Washington Post article also contained this choice quote:
An Arab diplomat, whose country is actively engaged in counterterrorism operations and shares intelligence with the CIA, said it is unrealistic to believe the CIA really wants to follow up on the assurances. "It would be stupid to keep track of them because then you would know what's going on," he said. "It's really more like 'Don't ask, don't tell.' "
Long story short: President Bush has knowingly and willingly outsourced torture, and believes that if he "washes his hands" like Pontius Pilate, he cannot be held responsible for the resulting torture.

Odd belief for a Christian - but Mr. Bush has always been more of a "Kristian-with-a-'K.'" ("Krab-with-a-'K'" is a cheap imitation of real crab meat. Kristians are cheap imitations of Christians - they mouth the words when convenient but don't buy into Jesus' actual philosophy. This blog uses these terms to distinguish between Christians like Habitat for Humanity and Kristians like Jerry Falwell.)


Another Incompetent Idiot Promoted

The FDA is being criticized for approving dangerous drugs. Taking swift and decisive action, Mr. Bush promptly PROMOTES the guy responsible for gutting drug safety investigations:
... House investigators (In 1985) concluded that Dr. Crawford, at that point the director of the F.D.A.'s Center for Veterinary Medicine, had put the interests of the livestock industry ahead of the public's interest in protecting health.

A committee report, adopted unanimously, found that Dr. Crawford "actually fostered the illegal marketing of unapproved drugs," failed to discourage the illegal use of drugs that tainted the milk supply, failed to remove drugs from the market that had been proven unsafe and approved drugs that his staff members suspected were carcinogenic.

Dr. Crawford disbanded an independent drug-safety group for humans within his center because, he stated then, "it is now our job to approve drugs." Internal reports warned that this move would undermine safety concerns, hearings found.

This last finding has echoes today. Some lawmakers recently proposed the creation of a drug safety center that would be independent of those at the F.D.A. who approve new drugs. Dr. Crawford opposes these proposals.

...Dr. Sidney Wolfe, the drug safety gadfly at Public Citizen, denounced the nomination.

"Crawford has been and will be one of the worst commissioners that there has been," Dr. Wolfe said. "He's a terrible choice."

Source: New York Times F.D.A. Nominee May Face Scrutiny of Tough Year and Tough Past March 17, 2005
Democrats and any Republicans still moral enough to place the public interest ahead of their careers should reject this particularly incompetent Bush nominee. Democrats should suck it up and demand full hearings. George Duh-bill-you (pron. W) Bush must be held personally responsible for the next FDA-sanctioned drug calamity.


Bush Policies Weaken US Defense

The New York Times' Tom Friedman notices the impact of China holding two hundred billion dollars ($200,000,000,000.00) in US debt:
The excessive tax cuts for the rich, combined with a total lack of discipline on spending by the Bush team and its Republican-run Congress, have helped China become the second-largest holder of U.S. debt, with a little under $200 billion worth. No, I don't think China will start dumping its T-bills on a whim. But don't tell me that as China buys up more and more of our debt - and that is the only way we can finance the tax holiday the Bush team wants to make permanent - it won't limit our room to maneuver with Beijing, should it take aggressive steps toward Taiwan.

What China might do with all its U.S. T-bills in the event of a clash over Taiwan is a total wild card that we have put in Beijing's hands.

On energy, the Bush team's obsession with drilling in the Alaskan wilderness to increase supply is mind-boggling. "I am sure China will be thrilled with the Bush decision to drill in Alaska," said the noted energy economist Philip Verleger Jr. "Oil in Alaska cannot easily or efficiently be shipped to our Gulf Coast refineries. The logical markets are on the West Coast of the United States and in Asia. Consumers in China and Japan, not the U.S., will be the real beneficiaries of any big Alaska find.

"With a big find, China and Japan will be able to increase imports from a dependable supplier - the U.S. - while consumers in the U.S. will still be at the mercy of unreliable suppliers, such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. It is simple geography. [Also], a big find will lead to lower prices in the short term, promoting more emissions and more warming."
Source: New York Times (emphasis added)

When John F Kennedy ran against Richard Nixon, the question was defending Quemoy and Matsu, two small islands then held by Taiwan. Thanks to George Bush, the question now is whether Taiwan can defend itself... because the US can't help them without allowing China to destroy our economy.


Tell the World Your Thoughts on Wolfowitz

Post your thoughts on BBC's comments page:How will Wolfowitz run the World Bank?

It doesn't look as though the rest of the world is too thrilled about this appointment, either:

Dismay at Wolfowitz's nomination
BBC News
March 17, 2005

French and German ministers were guarded in their reaction, while Sweden's foreign minister said she was sceptical about the nomination.

"The enthusiasm in old Europe is not exactly overwhelming," said German Foreign Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.
Some World Bank staff and some member governments fear that Mr Wolfowitz - an advocate of the muscular spread of democracy - would use his position to change its focus from development aid to a wider political mission, the BBC's Justin Webb reports from Washington.
A British-based campaign group, the World Development Movement, described the nomination as a "truly terrifying appointment".

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner and a former World Bank chief economist, said: "Choosing the right general in the war against poverty will not assure victory, but choosing the wrong one surely increases the chances of failure."
Indeed, the only supporters seem to be World Bank critics:
...World Bank critic Allan Meltzer, who chaired a US congressional committee on the bank in 2000, said Mr Wolfowitz was well qualified for the job.

Personally, I'm surprised Mr. Bush didn't nominate people with banking experience, like Ahmed Chalabi, Charles Keating, or Neil Bush

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Bush: The Man With No Plan

Jonathan Chait (posting on Talking Points Memo) notes that President Bush has no plan to "save" Social Security at all, only one of his "gut-level" impulses to replace Social Security with private accounts. Mr. Chait quotes Dan Froomkin's Washington Post on-line article:
(President Bush) expressed astonishment that people constantly refer to "Bush's plan": "I haven't laid out a plan," (Bush) said. "I've laid out some ideas that I think ought to be considered for a plan, and that's what's important for people to know."
Bush's stance is straight out of Negotiating 101: the first person to present a number loses. As Bush himself reportedly said: "Some have suggested, 'Why don't you send a bill up?' Well, sure enough, the bill I send up will be 'pffft,' " (President Bush) said, apparently making the sound of a balloon deflating, "the first bill to go down."

This is why the Republicans are pressuring Democrats to present a plan - so that the Democratic bill can be "the first bill to go down."

Thanks, Atrios, for the link to Jonathan's post.


Possible Prisoner Abuse Cover-Up by Pentagon

Last week, Vice Admiral Church reported the number of prisoner deaths caused by "criminal homicide" at six. The New York Times today notes at least twenty-six prisoners deaths were "criminal homicide" (a.k.a. murder or manslaughter) Twenty-five of of these deaths were unrelated to Abu Ghraib - proving that prisoner abuse was widespread throughout the US forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The NY Times has more:
U.S. Military Says 26 Inmate Deaths May Be Homicide

Published: March 16, 2005

WASHINGTON, March 15 - At least 26 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide, according to military officials.

The number of confirmed or suspected cases is much higher than any accounting the military has previously reported. A Pentagon report sent to Congress last week cited only six prisoner deaths caused by abuse, but that partial tally was limited to what the author, Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III of the Navy, called "closed, substantiated abuse cases" as of last September.

The new figure of 26 was provided by the Army and Navy this week after repeated inquiries...
Only one of the deaths occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, officials said, showing how broadly the most violent abuses extended beyond those prison walls and contradicting early impressions that the wrongdoing was confined to a handful of members of the military police on the prison's night shift.

Among the cases are at least four involving Central Intelligence Agency employees that are being reviewed by the Justice Department for possible prosecution. They include a killing in Afghanistan in June 2003 for which David Passaro, a contract worker for the C.I.A., is now facing trial in federal court in North Carolina.
Source: New York Times (Emphasis added.)

It seems obvious Admiral Church's report was designed to deliberately understate the prisoner abuse problem's scope - and why stop at prisoner deaths? What about what the rest of us call torture and the Bush Administration calls "rigorous interrogation?"

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


America Loves Torture

Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle comments on the lack of widespread outrage over ongoing reports of US torture:
It seems pretty much established that we, as a nation, don't mind torture all that much. Abu Ghraib was, of course, a scandal, but the reaction from the masses was underwhelming. The Pentagon as usual scapegoated a couple of grunts, and the whole thing went away.

Guantanamo Bay is pretty clearly a hellhole of illegal and/or repulsive activities (female interrogators saying, "I've got my period! This is my blood! Ick, eh?"), and yet it continues to continue. The new attorney general thinks that some portions of the Geneva Convention are quaint. President Bush personally approved shipping unnamed prisoners to undisclosed prisons in compliant Third World countries, where we can just keep them until they rot and beat them at will.
There are two problems with torture, besides the obvious one. One, it doesn't work. John McCain was tortured for six years, and never said a thing. Do you think that Islamic radicals believe in their cause less than John McCain believed in his? And here's the second problem: You can't be sure you're torturing the right guy. If someone says, "I don't know," and he really doesn't know, then you've spent a lot of precious torture time for nothing.
(emphasis added - Full Article Here)

Back in 1930's, the US Supreme Court held it a pure due process violation to use evidence secured by torture. The case involved a confession extracted from a black man using "standard interrogation methods." When the defense attorney asked what these were, the sheriff replied "We handcuffed him, hoisted him up to a tree branch by his wrists, and beat him until he confessed."

The sheriff believed folks so treated wouldn't confess unless they were guilty - and the trial court admitted the confession. Too bad those bleeding heart liberal judges kept out this valuable and trustworthy evidence.


Krugman vs. Brooks

Economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman:
The $600 Billion Man

The argument over Social Security privatization isn't about rival views on how to secure the program's future - even the administration admits that private accounts would do nothing to help the system's finances. It's a debate about what kind of society America should be.

And it's a debate Republicans appear to be losing, because the public doesn't share their view that it's a good idea to expose middle-class even more risk. As soon as voters started to realize that private accounts would replace traditional Social Security benefits, not add to them, support for privatization collapsed.

But the Republicans' loss may not be the Democrats' gain, for two reasons. One is that some Democrats, in the name of centrism, echo Republican talking points. The other is that claims to be defending average families ring hollow when you defer to corporate interests on votes that matter.
Source: New York Times (Emphasis added.)

Counterpoint by NY Times Columnist David Brooks:

A Requiem for Reform
Published: March 15, 2005

...Having skimmed decades of private-account proposals, Republicans did not appreciate how unfamiliar this idea would seem to many people. They didn't appreciate how beloved Social Security is, and how much they would have to show they love it, too, before voters would trust them to reform it. In their efforts to create a risk-taking, dynamic society, (Republicans) didn't appreciate how many people, including conservatives, value security and safety.
Democratic blunders: The Democrats are still traumatized by their own losses. They are focused on past defeats, not future opportunities, and interested in revenge, not governing and accomplishment.
Source: New York Times (Emphasis added.)

To summarize: Paul Krugman observes that the middle class faces enough risks without playing roulette with one's "worst case" retirement nest egg. David Brooks thinks playing roulette with one's retirement nest egg "creates a dynamic society" and thinks Democrats are "failing to govern" by opposing a plan Paul Krugman calls fiscally irresponsible.

Seems to me the Democrats are exercising sound judgment and good governance by preventing the Republicans from piling on another few trillion in debt via their "privatization" boondoggle.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Democracy in Lebanon?

I'm still of the theory that the demonstrations demanding Syria leave are based upon the Iraqi people's struggle against the once US policy of permanently occupying Iraq by establishing large Haliburton-constructed military bases. it is at least as likely that some Lebanese decided that if the Iraqis can kick the US out, Lebanon should be able to get rid of the Syrians.

Regardless of who inspired what, we can all be encouraged that the pro- and anti-Syrian factions are handling their disagreements via peaceful demonstrations. It is, moreover, worth remembering that Syria successfully stopped a civil war in Lebanon. Let's hope that the car-bomb crowd don't decide to provoke wide-scale violence - or that if they try, it doesn't work.


What Global Warming?

That pesky reality keeps contradicting our President - why does reality hate America?
Himalayan glaciers 'melting fast'
Melting glaciers in the Himalayas could lead to water shortages for hundreds of millions of people, the conservation group WWF has warned.

In a report, the WWF says India, China and Nepal could experience floods followed by droughts in coming decades.

The Himalayas contain the largest store of water outside the polar ice caps, and feed seven great Asian rivers.

The group says immediate action against climate change could slow the rate of melting, which is increasing annually.
Source: BBC News (Emphasis added.)

Meanwhile, the man who put the "duh" in "W" continues his first term policy of ignoring reality. Remember this blast from the past?
USA: EPA Downplayed Climate Change in Environmental Challenges Report

by H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press
June 20th, 2003

The Environmental Protection Agency scrapped a detailed assessment of climate change from an upcoming report on the state of the environment after the White House directed major changes and deletions to emphasize the uncertainties surrounding global warming.

The changes prompted an EPA staff memorandum that said the revisions demanded by the White House were so extensive that they would embarrass the agency because the section "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.

The climate section was part of a comprehensive review by the agency on major environmental concerns and what is needed to address them. The assessment has been a top priority of EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, who wanted it completed before she departs the agency next week.

Contrary to early EPA drafts, the final document, according to EPA officials and papers, gives only a cursory mention of climate change, one of the most daunting and complex environmental challenges facing the world.
Source: CorpWatch

Maybe he thinks Mother Nature can be tricked by Karl Rove's fake press reports?

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Bush Administration Fails Afghanistan

Remember how we were going to rebuild Afghanistan? How we weren't going to forget them like we did after the Soviet Union left? How the Iraq war wouldn't stop us? Reality disagrees:
Cold exposes Afghanistan's broken promises
By Ahmed Rashid
BBC News

The winter weather death toll in Afghanistan has exposed the country's acute lack of infrastructure, writes journalist Ahmed Rashid in his latest guest column for the BBC News website.

More than 600 people, many of them children, have died in a prolonged bout of bad winter weather in Afghanistan that has included unprecedented snowfall, heavy rain and below freezing temperatures.

In some eastern provinces ravenous wolves have been attacking equally hungry children.

The United Nations is just short of declaring "a humanitarian crisis" for Afghanistan.
There has been no lack of response to the foul weather affecting 14 of the country's 34 provinces.

More than 400,000 people have received food and other aid from the Afghan government, US-led coalition forces, Nato peacekeeping forces, UN agencies and Afghan and Western non-governmental organisations.

But they face the problem of how to get to them when snowfall has blocked mountain passes, avalanches have cut off villages, the few dirt track roads are impassable and there are no telephones to warn of impending disasters.
Nearly three and half years after the war that defeated the Taleban and despite the remarkable political progress Afghanistan has made, the lack of infrastructure continues to haunt this country.

New roads, power stations, water supplies and investment in agriculture which the majority of the population depend on, are still missing.
The kind of effort the US-led coalition has put into rebuilding the power grid in Baghdad has never been seen in Kabul.

In the meantime the lack of investment in Afghan agriculture has led to farmers growing opium poppies, which has led to drugs generating as much as $6.8bn in income between 2002 and 2004.

Drugs now account for 60% of the economy, but you cannot blame the farmers when they have nothing else to turn to in order to feed their families.

"Our team found the overwhelming majority of people hold a sense of pessimism and fear that reconstruction is bypassing them" says Daud Saba, one of the authors of a new UN Development Programme (UNDP) report on Afghanistan.

The report ranks the country 173 out of 178 countries in development indices.

There has been rapid progress in many fields such as health and education and five million children have gone back to school.

Yet the UNDP report states Afghanistan still has "the worst education system in the world" and it is the world leader in infant deaths, while one woman dies in pregnancy every 30 minutes.
Source: BBC News. (Emphasis added.)

For that matter, you'd think the "right-to-life" folks would be more concerned with fighting infant mortality and deaths during pregnancy. I wonder whether it is really because they care more about eliminating birth control than they care about preserving life?

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