Thursday, January 13, 2005

In their own words

What Bu$hCo and enablers said about WMD - a fairly complete compendium of the big lie and the lying liars who told it.

Some examples of the unofficial history of the Salvadoran Option

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Click the pic for an enlightening post from the otherwise dormant Whisky Bar.

Context

Scenes From the Bunker. What do Bush's and Hitler's reactions to bad news have in common? Follow the link to find out.

Getting caught with their pants down

US Ignored Warning on Iraqi Oil Smuggling

For months, the US Congress has been investigating activities that violated the United Nations oil-for-food programme and helped Saddam Hussein build secret funds to acquire arms and buy influence.



President George W. Bush has linked future US funding of the international body to a clear account of what went on under the multi-billion dollar programme. But a joint investigation by the Financial Times and Il Sole 24 Ore, the Italian business daily, shows that the single largest and boldest smuggling operation in the oil-for-food programme was conducted with the knowledge of the US government. “Although the financial beneficiaries were Iraqis and Jordanians, the fact remains that the US government participated in a major conspiracy that violated sanctions and enriched Saddam's cronies,” a former UN official said. “That is exactly what many in the US are now accusing other countries of having done. I think it's pretty ironic.”


Why am I not surprised?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

On to Sweden

via Norm of onegoodmove's Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday, is this article, Punitive - And It Works found in The Guardian:

There is, at the moment, a furious debate among economists about whether global inequality is rising or falling. No one disputes that there is a staggering gulf between rich and poor, which has survived decades of global economic growth. But what the neoliberals - who promote unregulated global capitalism - tell us is that there is no conflict between the whims of the wealthy and the needs of the wretched. The Economist magazine, for example, argues that the more freedom you give the rich, the better off the poor will be. Without restraints, the rich have a more powerful incentive to generate global growth, and this growth becomes "the rising tide that lifts all boats". Countries which intervene in the market with "punitive taxes, grandiose programmes of public spending, and all the other apparatus of applied economic justice" condemn their people to remain poor. A zeal for justice does "nothing but harm".

[snip]

Let's compare the United Kingdom - a pioneer of neoliberalism - and Sweden, one of the last outposts of distributionism.

[snip]

More surprisingly still, Sweden has a current account surplus of $10bn and the UK a deficit of $26bn. Even by the neoliberals' favourite measures, Sweden wins: it has a lower inflation rate than ours, higher "global competitiveness" and a higher ranking for "business creativity and research".

[snip]

In terms of human welfare, there is no competition. According to the quality of life measure published by the Economist (the "human development index") Sweden ranks third in the world, the UK 11th. Sweden has the world's third highest life expectancy, the UK the 29th. In Sweden, there are 74 telephone lines and 62 computers per hundred people; in the UK just 59 and 41.

[snip]

Despite everything we have been told over the past 25 years, it is still true that helping the poor means restraining the rich.


The older I get, the more of an old-school leftist I become. The above is just one of many reasons.

Oh, and speaking of Cuba:

Health Care? Ask Cuba

Here's a wrenching fact: If the U.S. had an infant mortality rate as good as Cuba's, we would save an additional 2,212 American babies a year.



Yes, Cuba's. Babies are less likely to survive in America, with a health care system that we think is the best in the world, than in impoverished and autocratic Cuba. According to the latest C.I.A. World Factbook, Cuba is one of 41 countries that have better infant mortality rates than the U.S.



Even more troubling, the rate in the U.S. has worsened recently.



In every year since 1958, America's infant mortality rate improved, or at least held steady. But in 2002, it got worse: 7 babies died for each thousand live births, while that rate was 6.8 deaths the year before.



Those numbers, buried in a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, didn't get much attention. But they are part of a pattern of recent statistics dribbling out of the federal government suggesting that for those on the bottom in America, life in our new Gilded Age is getting crueler.



"America's children are at greater risk than they've been in for at least a decade," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, associate dean at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and president of the Children's Health Fund. "The rising rate of infant mortality is an early warning that we're headed in the wrong direction, with no relief in sight."


Props to No Capital for the find. Cuba seems to have an amazing health care system in place, given its relative poverty and given that Cuba has been punished economically by the US practically since Castro assumed power (not to mention US state-sponsored terrorist attacks on Cubans in the effort to overthrow the government). I've highlighted a few other facets of health care in Cuba here, here, and here. The people of Cuba are doing remarkably well in terms of lifespans, in large part due to access to medical care that largely eludes many here in the US - ostensibly the richest nation in the world. Fancy that.

Cuba's apparently pretty close to energy self-sufficiency

Fidel Is A Jolly, Good Fellow

Both Romero and Fawthrop say that Cuba's domestic oil production is 75,000 barrels per day.



So, if 75,000 barrels per day accounts for 80% of Cuba's electicity needs, then we can infer or calculate that 93,000barrels per day of oil consumption takes care of Cuba's daily electricity needs.



Hence, the Cubans are only 18,000 barrels per day short of 100% oil self-sufficiency in regard to their electricity needs, the major oil consumer in almost all countries, including those with nuclear capabilities for the generation of electricity.(The US which burns a lot of coal may be something of an exception.)



This poses the question:What are the odds of Cuba producing an 18,000 barrels per day to become totally self-sufficient in this regard?



Well, Romero says that Cuba's oil production grew from 18,000 barrels per day in 1992 to 75,000 barrels per day in 2004.



This means that oil production, on average, increased each year between 1992 and 2004 some 4,750 barrels.



So, Romero data implies that Cuba will beome totally self-sufficient with respect to its electricity needs in just less than 4 years or sometime in 2009, if its oil production neither rises or falls during this period.

An interesting history lesson

Forty Acres (No Mule): History for Today

On this day, 140 years ago, a delegation of black religious leaders--most of them former slaves--met with General William T. Sherman in Savannah to discuss "matters relating to the freedmen of Georgia." Four days later, Sherman issued his famous Special Field Order 15, which ordered that former slaves be granted land, in plots of up to 40 acres, in a coastal area extending from Charleston, South Carolina, to north Florida. Within six months, perhaps 40,000 freedpeople lived on claims in the "Sherman reserve." Thus was born the idea, which persists to day, of a government promise of 40 acres of land to former slaves.


Click the link to read the rest.

Some Tortured Daily Kos Diaries of Note:

Torture 101



chertoff, torture, al qaeda: don't let this slip by



"Bu$hCo: We don't like to think of it as torture. We think of it as just like frat hazing, only without the beer."

And it ends with a whimper

What weapons, there are no weapons. Well at least Bu$hCo has called off the charade. The search for the Holy Grail WMDs is now dead and buried - (and thanks to Bu$hCo's war) along with many human beings who deserved a much better fate. Steve Gilliard's comments pretty much say it all:

An open letter to Ken Pollack



Dear Mr. Pollack,



It isn't every day an armchair analyst can help send 1357 decent Americans and 100,000 decent and mostly innocent Iraqis to an early grave. I mean, it takes work to promote a policy of death so dilligently and so profitably.



So here's a simple question: where the fuck are the weapons? You said they had them. They didn't and a lot of people are dead. In imperial Japan, that would have required hara kiri. But in Washington, I guess that means a new book on Iran, so more Americans can die.



Don't you get tired of being a cheerleader for death? I know you call it a policy issue, but real people are dying. They're blowing up tanks with the explosives we didn't even bother to guard. You sit at a desk, wipe the blood from your hands and well, go about your day. Which I assume doesn't include a trip to Walter Reed to see the teenaged cripples your words help create.



The Washington Post had a charming story, in an aside about Ward 57, a stop for many after their part in the war your so confidently recommended ended in a flash of blinding light and shrapnel, there was a few lines about a three year old crawling after his legless mother. Why aren't you waking up in fear every night. Your words helped create sleepless nights for thousands of young men and women, shattered beyond belief by the war you helped promote like a boxing match.



Well, now there are no weapons. And a lot of shattered, ruined families here, in the UK, in Ukraine, in Iraq. And, like Streicher's screetching about the Jews, you can go down in history as a great propaganist. You swore that Saddam was a danger. To what? His own people? Hell, we're killing them as fast as we can. We're now gonna unleash death squads to make them love us. At least in Saddam's Iraq, you could walk down the street without a hijab and the fear of being raped.



No one could or would defend Saddam's rule in Iraq. But is the hell we've unleashed even marginally better. Sure, let's talk about elections. How many Iraqis and Americans will die to play out Bush's farce? In the charnel house we've turned Iraq into, how many people will die for "the vote". A vote for candidates who cannot even campaign.



But that crappy book you wrote forsaw none of this. As you played armchair general and hoked up a profile of Saddam the insane, you didn't see what was coming, what a good historian could have predicted. Why mutter something about Bush screwing up. You provided him the intellectual cover to screw up. You convinced the chattering classes to support this fiasco.



Now, with Landsthul filled with ruined kids and the lines clogged with heartsick parents, where have you been? Pimping a new book on Iran. Are you sending more people to die? Does that not bother you, as you make lofty pronouncements paid for with the blood of others? Or do they count at all, the maimed and the dead?



YOu said there were weapons, there are none. In a just world, you should be haunted by that every night of the rest of your life.

Herold's War

A homeless Iraq vet asks for respect

Pcf. Herold Noel, 25, wasn’t expecting a parade. But when he and his fellow soldiers from the Army’s Expeditionary Unit 37 arrived home from Iraq in Hinesville, Ga. they got what one might call less than a hero’s welcome. Waiting for them as they deplaned were local police officers. In their hands were lists of names of soldiers with outstanding warrants, mostly for traffic and parking tickets left unpaid while off fighting the war.



“I had a couple [of unpaid tickets],” Noel recalls. “I told my family to meet me in the parking lot and I went out the side door.”



According to Noel, several soldiers were hauled away in cuffs as their families looked on.



The scene was an ominous sign of things to come.



Welcome back



Noel, who enlisted in the Army at 19, was part of the so-called “tip of the spear” during the March 2003 U.S. invasion. His job was one of the most perilous: hauling tank fuel on the frontlines all the way to Baghdad, and then in Fallujah, where the heavy fighting never stopped. His rig was so combustible that in the heat of battle his own tanks would turn and run when they saw him coming.



Noel, who received several medals for his actions, left Hinesville shortly after his less-than-heartwarming homecoming, heading back to his native New York City. The reception there was even more bleak. When he tried to apply for public housing, he was told there was a freeze on new applications. When he went to the city’s Emergency Assistance Unit, he was told there nothing they could do for him either.



He is now homeless, traversing the city with his two-year old son, Anthony, caught in a so-far fruitless search for housing. For the last six months, he has been lost in a Kafka-esque maze of public and private service agencies, living out of his car, a 1994 Jeep. He’s moved from friends’ and family members’ couches trying to keep his son off the street. He sent his two other children, twins aged six, to Florida to stay with their grandmother.



“We’re not asking for a lot, just a place to lay our heads,” he said. “I’m a solider. I risked my life for this country. I have given a lot to this country. I honor this country. For me to come back home and to have nothing to grasp onto – to be put out of the street – is wrong.”



In addition, Noel is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.



He witnessed horrific scenes in Iraq, including loss of limbs among his own men, and scores of civilian deaths. While taking fire, he says he was forced to run over several Iraqis with his truck.



“I have nightmares, I get angry a lot,” he said.



He sees a psychiatrist at a local VA Hospital and has been prescribed three drugs, including trazodone, an antidepressant, and risperidone, an anti-psychotic.



He has yet to receive any disability checks, which can take more than a year to process.



[...]



“I know veterans going through what I did, they going through a struggle. These vets they’re not asking for a lot, pennies – so they can survive.”



Despite everything, Noel says he would enlist again.



“I’m always going to be a soldier. I’m going to speak so my country can be a better country. I’m not bashing the military – but if you want people to protect this country, you have to protect them.”

I'm getting the feeling that the right-wing response to Armstrong Williams shilling for Bu$hCo

is quite underwhelming. Just for shits and giggles went over to see what the Freepers had to say about Williams - checked out their news/activism section and since January 10, there's been a grand total of two articles posted on Williams, whereas Dan Rather has garnered a total of ten articles posted during the same time period. Not too surprisingly (and I was definitely not expecting any surprises from these folks), from the sample of comments I read from the various Williams posts since his scandal started a few days ago, I noticed a definite trend towards rationalizing the whole thing and/or demonizing liberals (a few posters over there appear to have something of a conscience when it comes to the issue of a journalist shilling for a President's policies - [snark]but I'm sure they're just closet Democrats or French persons[/snark]). Pretty much the deal with those clowns - same shit, different issue.

A mid-week thought piece

First They Came For The Terrorists... by Thom Hartmann:

The Gonzales confirmation is not just about the torture memos. It's much bigger than that.

If Bush continues to roll back human and civil rights - and the installation of Alberto Gonzalez as America's chief law enforcement officer is very much a part of his campaign to do so - we may be facing a "Pastor Niemöller moment" sooner than most of us could have imagined.

Tuesday, January 10, 2005, is the third anniversary of the opening of America's first concentration camp since Japanese Americans were shamefully interred during WWII. Since the first Guantanamo camp was opened, the Bush administration has built additional concentration camps - the latest known as Camp Five - in Cuba, and is asking Congress for $29 million to build concentration Camp Six.

[...]

This is one of the more visible parts of a much larger campaign the Bush administration has embarked on to reverse not only 229 years of the American rule of law regarding the rights of average citizens, but nearly eight centuries of human rights that go back to an epic moment in 1215 on a meadow by the River Thames.

The modern institution of civil and human rights, and particularly the writ of habeas corpus, began in June of 1215 when King John was forced by the feudal lords to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Although that document mostly protected "freemen" - what were then known as feudal lords or barons, and today known as CEOs and millionaires - rather than the average person, it initiated a series of events that echo to this day.

Two of the most critical parts of the Magna Carta were articles 38 and 39, which established the foundation for what is now known as "habeas corpus" laws (literally, "produce the body" from the Latin - meaning, broadly, "let this person go free"), as well as the Fourth through Eighth Amendments of our Constitution and hundreds of other federal and state due process provisions.

[...]

Then, in 1627, King Charles I overstepped, and the people snapped. Charles I threw into jail five knights in a tax disagreement, and the knights sued the King, asserting their habeas corpus right to be free or on bail unless convicted of a crime.

King Charles I, in response, invoked his right to simply imprison anybody he wanted (other than the rich), anytime he wanted, as he said, "per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis."

This is essentially the same argument that George W. Bush makes today for why he has the right to detain both citizens and non-citizens solely on his own say-so: because he's in charge. And it's an argument supported by Alberto Gonzales.

But just as George's decree is meeting resistance, Charles' decree wasn't well received. The result of his overt assault on the rights of citizens led to a sort of revolt in the British Parliament, producing the 1628 "Petition of Right" law, an early version of our Fourth through Eighth Amendments, which restated Articles 38 and 39 of the Magna Carta and added that "writs of habeas corpus, [are] there to undergo and receive [only] as the court should order." It was later strengthened with the "Habeas Corpus Act of 1640" and a second "Habeas Corpus Act of 1679."

Thus, the right to suspend habeas corpus no longer was held by the King. It was exercised solely by the people's (elected and hereditary) representatives in the Parliament.

[...]

Ironically, the third George to govern the United States now says, 190 years later, that unlike England's George III, he does not need an act of Congress to detain people or exile them to camps on a distant island.

To facilitate this, our Third George, and his able counselor Judge Gonzales, have brought forth new "legal" terms - "enemy combatant" and "terrorist" - and invented a new set of law and rights (or non-laws and non-rights) for people they label as such.

It's a virtual repeat of Charles I's doctrine that a nation's ruler may do whatever he wants because he's the one in charge - "per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis."

Interestingly, the United States Constitution does provide for special exceptions to the involuntary detention of persons - it is legal to suspend habeas corpus. But the Constitution says it can only be done by Congress, not by the President.

Article I of the Constitution outlines the powers and limits of the Legislative Branch of government (Article 2 lays out the Executive Branch, and Article 3 defines the Judicial Branch). In Section 9, Clause 2 of Article I, the Constitution says of the Legislative branch's authority: "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

[...]

But President George W. Bush has not asked Congress for, and has not been granted, a suspension of habeas corpus for his so-called "war on terrorism," a "war" which he and his advisors have implied may last well beyond our lifetimes.

Nonetheless, our President, with consent of his Counsel Mr. Gonzales, has locked people up, "per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis." Some of their names are familiar to us - US citizens Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, for example - but there are hundreds whose names we are not even allowed to know. Perhaps thousands. It's a state secret, after all. Per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis.

But how do we deal with people who want to kill us, to destroy our nation, to terrorize us?

Every president from George Washington to Bill Clinton has understood that there are two categories of people who can be incarcerated legally - Prisoners of War and criminals. The former have rights under both U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions, and the latter under the U.S. Constitution.

These two categories encompass every possible actual threat to a nation and its people, and have withstood the test of time from the days of King John to today.

For example, when Bill Clinton was confronted with a heinous act of terrorism within the United States - the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City - he didn't declare a "war" on whoever the terrorist may be, or suspend habeas corpus. Instead, he immediately defined the perpetrators as thugs and criminals, and brought the full weight of the American and international criminal justice system to bear, capturing Timothy McVeigh and using Interpol to search the world for possible McVeigh allies. Justice was served, the victims achieved closure, and our rights were left largely intact.

But, just as Hitler and his close advisors used the burning of the Reichstag building to declare a perpetual "war on terrorism," and then moved to suspend habeas corpus and other rights, so too have George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales.

[...]

While the sexy stuff that members of Congress and the news media want to talk about when they question Alberto Gonzales is torture - after all, the pictures are now iconic and have worldwide distribution - the torture of these and other prisoners in US custody is really a subset of a larger issue.

The bigger question here is whether George W. Bush has the right to ignore the U.S. Constitution and international treaties, violate human rights and civil liberties, promote "preemptive" wars, and build concentration camps for the permanent imprisonment of untried and unconvicted individuals - all simply because he says he can, per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis. And whether we want the chief law enforcement officer of the land, the man who would be charged with prosecuting Bush or those in his administration who may break the law, to be a man who agrees that Bush stands above the law and the Constitution.

The question, ultimately, is whether our nation will continue to stand for the values upon which it was founded.

[...]

The question for our day is who will speak up against George W. Bush and his Stalinist policies? Who will speak against the man who punishes reporters and news organizations by cutting off their access; who punishes politicians by targeting them in their home districts; who punishes truth-tellers in the Executive branch by character assassination that even extends to destroying their spouse's careers?

Oddly, so far it's only been Justice Antonin Scalia, a man with whom I often strongly disagree. Scalia wrote in his minority dissent in the case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that the President does not have the power to suspend habeas corpus by executive decree. Instead, he wrote: "If civil rights are to be curtailed during wartime, it must be done openly and democratically, as the Constitution requires..."

[...]

How ironic that Justice Scalia was willing to stand up to George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales, but most of the Senate Democrats won't.

The Democrats in Congress say they're going to confirm Judge Gonzales and "keep their powder dry" for future, larger battles like Supreme Court nominations. But as Pastor Niemöller reminds us, the loss of liberty is incremental, not sudden and dramatic.

One either totally stands for republican democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law in our republic, or one doesn't. Gonzales has shown that he does not, both by his prevarication in his confirmation hearings, his actions in condoning Bush's illegal suspension of habeas corpus and PATRIOT Act abuses of constitutionally-protected civil and human rights, and his support of other Bush decrees implicitly per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis.

To quote Scalia's summary in the Hamdi case, "Because the Court has proceeded to meet the current emergency in a manner the Constitution does not envision [by letting the President suspend habeas corpus], I respectfully dissent."

But is dissent enough?

Or must we work for a wholesale change in our representatives, demanding that they either stand up for the principles for which so many Americans have fought and died, or leave the political arena altogether?

Where are the true democrats among the Democrats? (Or, for that matter, the true republicans among the Republicans?) Have they all lost their voices?

First Bush and Gonzales came for the terrorists, but I was not a terrorist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the enemy combatants, but I was not a combatant, so I did not object. Then they came for the protestors resisting "free speech zones" near Bush campaign rallies, but I was not a protestor and so I only voiced my unease.

If we - and our elected representatives - do not speak out now, loudly and forcefully, it may not be long before they come for the rest of us.

Very Timely MLK Jr. Quote

via The Sideshow:

Don't let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with justice and it seems I can hear God saying to America, "You are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name. Be still and know that I'm God."



-- Martin Luther King, 4 April 1967

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

So, where's the outrage?

Armstrong v. Rather: where's the outrage? Good question. The right-wingnuts had a field day with that relative tempest in a teapot called "Rathergate" (for reporting memos that may or may not as far as we know have been valid) - hell, they were creaming their undies over it from what I recall when I took the occasional stroll into Freeper and LGF territory. It was the story of the century even in what passes for mainstream media, and still gets play months later. With Armstrong, we have someone who's actually admitted taking substantial sums of taxpayer money (that's right: yours and my tax dollars) to act as a Bu$hCo propagandist under the guise of "objective" journalism. So where's the outrage over Armstrong? Good question. One can hear the veritable sound of crickets chirping in the msm. I haven't felt especially masochistic, so I haven't been over at the freeper & LGF sites, but I'm imagining that their "outrage" is equally underwhelming. Can you say double standard? I knew that you could.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Just like in cheerleading

Via Tom Tomorrow in his post, Tortured arguments:

Forcing naked Iraqi prisoners to pile themselves in human pyramids was not torture, because American cheerleaders do it every year, a court was told today.



A lawyer defending Specialist Charles Graner, who is accused of being a ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, argued that piling naked prisoners in pyramids was a valid form of prisoner control.



"Don’t cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?" said Guy Womack, Sergeant Graner’s lawyer, in opening arguments to the ten-member military jury at the reservist’s court martial.



. . .

The prosecution showed some of those pictures in their opening argument, including one of naked Iraqi men piled on each other and another of Ms England holding a crawling naked Iraqi man on a leash.



Mr Womack said that using a tether was a valid method of controlling detainees. "You’re keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections," he said.


At least the Nuremberg Defense is alive and well (although to be fair that's the one believable facet of this guy's defense argument):

Apart from arguing that the methods were not illegal, Graner’s defence is that he was following orders from superiors. Mr Womack said: "He was doing his job. Following orders and being praised for it."