Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tim Kaine Makes Me Scream

With boredom. YAWWWWWNNNNNN. Could this man be any less dynamic, any more lifeless? His voice sounded dead. He kept waving his hands helplessly. He was embarrassing.

The Democrats have embraced mediocrity. It's very depressing.


Coretta Scott King's Importance to American History

There are right-wing bloggers out there who are so invested in hostility for progressive U.S. social movements that they cannot find anything to admire even in someone like Coretta Scott King, who died last night at the age of 78.

...She was a revered figure -- as Juan Williams put it on NPR, the "queen" of the civil rights movement -- solely for the fact that she was Dr. King's widow. She has spent the last several decades doggedly fighting against any attempt to portray King as anything but a Christ-like figure and has succeeded in elevating him to iconic status beyond his actual role in gaining equality for black Americans.
She made a good life for herself off of copyright wealth, stifling history, which can't have hurt the effort to redirect said history.

Mean-spirited, sure. But also, and more to the point, extraordinarily ignorant.

Coretta Scott King had no interest in portraying her husband as a "Christ-like figure." She did dedicate her life after MLK's assassination to keeping alive the movement for nonviolent political change that Dr. King and many others had used so effectively to end Jim Crow and gain equal rights for African-Americans. She did this, not through words or her physical presence alone, but through the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, which she founded in 1969. The King Center's historical collections and community service programs have done a lot more to educate the world about Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movement, and nonviolent social change than the Bush administration has done to educate the world about the possibilities of creating political change without resorting to terrorism.

Coretta Scott King was not about promoting a distorted image of her husband so people would remember him as a saint. She wanted to help people understand what MLK wanted people to understand about struggling against injustice without committing injustice; and beyond that, she wanted to continue that struggle. In doing that, CSK reached beyond her own people to support freedom in other social contexts and to struggle against injustice as it affected other groups in society, not necessarily just black Americans.

Pam Spaulding makes this point quite eloquently:

This loss is so great because Mrs. King was an advocate for civil rights who believed that phrase was inclusive -- those of us in the LGBT family knew that she was on our side. While other figures in the civil rights movement, including Coretta's daughter Bernice, have chosen exclusion, demonization, and marginalization of gays and lesbians, Coretta Scott King stood regally and spoke eloquently about why discrimination of any kind is wrong.

King demonstrated her commitment to opposing discrimination and injustice no matter who the target was when she spoke at a conference, organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce and held soon after the last presidential election:

I think we all need a few days to recuperate from the stress-filled election we have just experienced, but not much more, because we have a lot more work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination.

I say "common struggle" because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination.

My husband, Martin Luther King Jr., once said, "We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny ... an inescapable network of mutuality. ... I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be." Therefore, I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.

In addition to this fundamental moral principle, there is a very practical reason why people involved in human rights should support each other and work together. And that reason is that the whole of us united makes us stronger than the sum of our parts. This principle of synergy is eloquently summed up in the equation "One plus one equals three." In other words, there are things we achieve together that we can't achieve separately.

Coretta Scott King was living proof that a woman could survive the violent death of her husband, raise four small children on her own, and have a meaningful professional life. She was instrumental in getting federal legislation passed that created Martin Luther King, Jr., day as a federal holiday. James Joyner is simply and unarguably, flat-out wrong when he writes that "...Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Monroe, and dozens of other figures were more significant in their impact on American history than MLK." Obviously, the men who founded this nation had tremendous influence on American history -- although not unalloyedly for the good, given the consequences of the decision to keep slavery. But Martin Luther King, Jr., was just as important in his influence on American history in the second half of the 20th century. He galvanized the civil rights movement, which led to a wave of legislation that freed African-Americans, especially in the South, from a century of legal segregation, unequal education, and outright terrorism. It didn't happen all at once, and it did not end racial injustice, but few would argue that life for Southern blacks 40 years after the civil rights movement is not vastly better than it was 40 years before the civil rights movement.

Also, the principles of nonviolent resistance to evil informed and inspired at least half a dozen social movements that came later: the struggles for abortion and other reproductive rights, gay and lesbian rights, the environmental movement, animal rights, and the peace movement, for starters.

King did not originate the idea that evil could be defeated through nonviolent resistance; he developed it over years of studying the philosophies of Gandhi, Reinhold Niebuhr, Hegel, and Jesus as expressed in his Sermon on the Mount. And in turn, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, vision inspired human rights movements all over the world, from the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa to the anti-Soviet Solidarity movement in Poland. Here's a commentary on the far-reaching influence of just one of King's many writings, "Letter From a Birmingham Jail":

As an eternal statement that resonates hope in the valleys of despair, "Letter From Birmingham City Jail" is unrivaled, an American document as distinctive as the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation.

I'd say that the commitment Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, life partner made, after he died, to continue his work and honor his vision, and her very tangible accomplishments in that effort, are ample reason for the respect, love, and admiration Coretta Scott King has earned in her own right -- quite apart from her status as MLK's widow.


NATION EDITOR KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL is peeved at the fact that the Democrats' choice of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to give the party's reply to Bush's State of the Union speech has not been greeted with universal approval in the liberal blogosphere. In particular, vanden Heuvel takes a potshot at Ezra Klein, in her blog today, for referring to Kaine's physical appearance in his post on January 21.

Ezra wrote:

The decision to have Tim Kaine deliver the SOTU response just looks weirder and weirder. Setting aside the ideological objections raised by Shakes and Arianna, the guy just lacks the technical talents for the role. Were he a new face with the rhetorical abilities of, say, Barack Obama, I'd be more sanguine. But Kaine is, at best, a functional speaker, not an orator for the history books. And nor is he a good looking dude who could put an attractive, fresh face on the party. He's a squat, squinty, pug-nosed fellow who just won an election that largely revolved around retail politics and the endorsement of his predecessor. I realize the leadership has read their Wallis and resolved to convince voters that Democrats really do adore the Baby Jesus, but the SOTU-response really isn't the time or the place for straining demonstrations of religiosity.

Katrina's reaction:

Why are so many liberal bloggers up in arms about Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine being picked to give the Democrat's reply to Bush's State of the Union? There's been fury in the blogosphere about everything from Kaine's looks, style, obscurity, his open talk about his faith and his inexperience in national security. Liberal writer Ezra Klein (no Brad Pitt, last time I checked him out) vented that Kaine is "a squat, squinty, pug-nosed fellow."

First of all, Ezra being no Brad Pitt is to Ezra's credit.

Second, Ezra's point was that Gov. Kaine was a bad choice to respond to the SOTU because he is not strongly liberal and isn't even a particularly inspired or dynamic speaker. This being the case, it's hard to understand why the Democrats chose him, since he isn't even great-looking. As Ezra writes in his response to Katrina today, politics is all about looks, so if Kaine were gorgeous, that might explain why he was chosen, despite his liberalism being muddy and his oratorical skills second-rate. But he isn't. So why was he chosen?

Katrina quotes Ezra's words about Kaine's appearance out of the context in which he wrote them, which makes it possible for her to accuse him of shallowness and then pettishly retaliate by telling Ezra he isn't so hot-looking either.

To which I say, she's either blind or has terrible taste in men, because Ezra is quite stunning in the looks department. But don't take my word for it. Check out what Jeralyn Merritt, Digby, and Shakes have to say.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Another Extension Likely for the Patriot Act

Andrew Cochran at The Counterterrorism Blog reports that Congress is poised to approve a second short-term extension for the Patriot Act, since the current one expires on February 3, and it is unlikely that agreement will be reached before then.


Trapped Saskatchewan Miners Rescued

If Saskatchewan, Canada, can give such a high priority to mine safety that 72 men trapped by an underground fire can all be saved, without even serious injuries, why can't West Virginia, USA?

All 72 workers trapped in a Saskatchewan potash mine have been rescued after spending more than 24 hours trapped by a fire deep below the earth's surface.

The final five workers, who were farthest from the escape route, reached the surface at around 8 a.m. CT.

"It really is a good news story," Marshall Hamilton, spokesman for mine owner Mosaic Company, told CTV Newsnet Monday.

"It's because of the training of our people that we're happy to report that everybody is safe."
The miners, most of whom are employed by contractor Dynatech, were trapped when fire broke out in polyethylene piping nearly a kilometre underground at the K2 Mosaic Mine near Esterhazy, Sask., at about 3 a.m. CT on Sunday.

When toxic smoke began to fill the tunnels, the miners retreated to so-called safe rooms -- spacious chambers that can be sealed off and are equipped with supplies of oxygen, food and water.

Within two hours, rescue teams were mobilized, each going into the mine for a few hours at a time.

"The safe thing to do and the procedure we've established is in the event you see smoke you immediately retreat to one of the refuge stations and once you're there, seal yourself off," Hamilton added.

"In those refuge stations, the workers can seal themselves in with enough oxygen and food and water to be comfortable for the next 36 hours at least."
Miner Greg Harris said he was never really concerned about his safety as he played a makeshift game of checkers with colleagues while they waited to be rescued.

He and his friends drew the checkerboard on the back of a map and used washers as playing pieces.

"Everything is good," an exhausted Harris told The Canadian Press from his home Monday afternoon. "Communication was excellent. We had no problems whatsoever."

Meanwhile, Hamilton praised the rescue efforts, saying everything had gone according to plan.

"You would be hard pressed to find a mining operation anywhere in the world that has a better safety record than Mosaic here in Esterhazy," Hamilton told reporters.

It's shameful that in this country, mine owners are allowed to put profit before safety and get away with ignoring hundreds of safety violations.


Bloggers and Journalists

Henry at Crooked Timber writes about the differences between bloggers and journalists. I think he nails down the essential misunderstanding among many in the MSM and even among blog readers about what blogging and journalism are, and are not:

...Journalism and blogging have different internal systems of authority. Newspaper articles aspire to presenting a comprehensive, neutral and authoritative judgement regarding the facts at hand in a particular matter. Of course, they don't always succeed in doing this at all -- hence the need for ombudsmen, correction columns etc. But even if this standard is often more honoured in the breach than the observance, it still is the basis for the journalistic claim to authority, and status. Blogposts are quite different -- they're arguments in an ongoing debate. They don't aspire to any sort of finality or authoritativeness (and indeed they're often updated in response to new arguments or facts). They comment on, and respond to, what others are saying.

The point is that they have very different -- and clashing -- notions of where authority and responsibility come from. Each newspaper article has the form of a discrete statement, which is supposed to be as authoritative as possible on its own ground. Each blogpost has the form of an intervention in an ongoing conversation -- the blogger's authority rests in part on her willingness to respond to others and engage in argument with them. A blogger who doesn't respond to good counter-arguments is being irresponsible (of course many bloggers are irresponsible in this way; there isn't much in the way of formal policing of this norm). These forms of authority are difficult to reconcile with each other, because the latter in large part undermines the former. If journalists start systematically responding to their critics, and getting drawn into conversations about whether or not they were right when they made a particular claim, then they're effectively admitting that the articles they have written aren't all that authoritative in the first place. They're subject to debate and to revision. Thus, in part, the tendency for journalists like Jack Shafer to dismiss criticism from bloggers and their commenters as "organized riots" and lynch mobs. It's a fundamental threat to their notions of where journalistic authority comes from. ...


Sunday, January 29, 2006

The "Tipping Point" of Climate Change

The global warming debate in the scientific community is shifting from whether it's real to when we will reach the point of no return.

This "tipping point" scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.

There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.

The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth's average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would "imply changes that constitute practically a different planet."

"It's not something you can adapt to," Hansen said in an interview. "We can't let it go on another 10 years like this. We've got to do something."

Princeton University geosciences and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer, who also advises the advocacy group Environmental Defense, said one of the greatest dangers lies in the disintegration of the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheets, which together hold about 20 percent of the fresh water on the planet. If either of the two sheets disintegrates, sea level could rise nearly 20 feet in the course of a couple of centuries, swamping the southern third of Florida and Manhattan up to the middle of Greenwich Village.

Most climate change experts feel that it makes sense to set mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions even if we don't yet have absolute certainty on the pace of global warming and how well (if at all) humans could adapt to it.

David Warrilow, who heads science policy on climate change for Britain's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said that while the science remains unsettled, his government has decided to take a precautionary approach. He compared consuming massive amounts of fossil fuels to the strategy of the Titanic's crew, who were unable to avoid an iceberg because they were speeding across the Atlantic in hopes of breaking a record.

"We know there are icebergs out there, but at the moment we're accelerating toward the tipping point," Warrilow said in an interview. "This is silly. We should be doing the opposite, slowing down whilst we build up our knowledge base."

But the Bush administration doesn't see any need to get all preemptive about the threat of climate change.

...President Bush's chief science adviser, John H. Marburger III, emphasize[s] there is still much uncertainty about when abrupt global warming might occur.

"There's no agreement on what it is that constitutes a dangerous climate change," said Marburger, adding that the U.S. government spends $2 billion a year on researching this and other climate change questions. "We know things like this are possible, but we don't have enough information to quantify the level of risk."
Marburger said that though everyone agrees carbon dioxide emissions should decline, the United States prefers to promote cleaner technology rather than impose mandatory greenhouse gas limits. "The U.S. is the world leader in doing something on climate change because of its actions on changing technology," he said.

Okay, and how does that work? Sure, individual innovators and product developers come up with ideas for environmentally friendly corporate designs, but they are under no requirement to do so.

What is the United States, as a government, doing to develop "clean technology"? What is the Bush administration doing, beyond launching empty initiatives like the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate, "an international non-treaty agreement between Australia, India, Japan, the People's Republic of China, South Korea, and the United States ... [in which] partner countries agreed to co-operate on development and transfer of technology which enables reduction of greenhouse gas emissions... [by agreeing on] a Charter, Communique and Work Plan that 'outline a ground-breaking new model of private-public taskforces to address climate change, energy security and air pollution' "? [Emphases mine.]

You know what that is? A big bunch of nothing, that's what. Where are the goals, and the strategies for achieving them? Where is the timetable? Where are the targets; where are the incentives? Where are the deadlines? Where are the penalties for not meeting deadlines? If Pres. Bush is so gung-ho on the power of private industry and the "free" market to come up with solutions to any and all human problems, then he should also recognize that free markets work on incentives and disincentives, not voluntarism. They respond to demands, not "agreements to cooperate," as a January 10 Reuters article pointed out.
Many experts doubt that companies will invest enough in new clean-energy technology, unless they get a carrot-and-stick approach to help stave off what could be disastrous climate changes ranging from desertification to rising sea levels.

"The new partnership has no real drivers," said David Doniger, of the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council. "A problem of this size is not going to be solved by a small amount of money and cheerleading."

Doniger, who was a U.S. climate negotiator under President Bill Clinton, urged the creation of environmental markets, like in the European Union, to give clean-energy producers an advantage over burners of dirty fossil fuels.

"Technologies do not just appear from nowhere; they have to be developed, mostly in response to new markets," echoed Jonathan Kohler, an economist at England's Cambridge University. "The Americans are right that technology will be the solution...but this plan is not enough."


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Osama bin Forgotten

If you don't like Pres. Bush's policy on Osama bin Laden, wait five minutes.

September 17, 2001, referring to OBL:

"I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'"

March 13, 2002, responding to a question at a White House press conference:

Q: But don't you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.

3rd Presidential Debate, October 13, 2004:

"I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations."

January 26, 2006, speaking to reporters after visiting the NSA:

"President Bush, defending the government's secret surveillance program, said Wednesday that Americans should take Osama bin Laden seriously when he says he's going to attack again.

'When he says he's going to hurt the American people again, or try to, he means it,' Bush told reporters after visiting the top-secret National Security Agency where the surveillance program is based. 'I take it seriously, and the people of NSA take it seriously.' "

Joe at AMERICAblog comments on the final quote:

What a fraud. Never forget that Bush was warned on August 6, 2001 that Bin Laden was determined to attack in the U.S. He ignored that warning. He stayed on vacation -- just like he did when Katrina was destroying the Gulf Coast.
Bin Laden meant it in 2001, but Bush didn't take him seriously. That's why 3,000 Americans died. Bush failed to protect America in the summer of 2001. Since then, Bush has used Bin Laden as a political weapon. But, Bin Laden is still alive...still threatening us...so Bush is still failing us.


A Majority of Americans Think Pres. Bush Is a Failure

So says a new poll published by CNN/USA Today/Gallup.

A majority of Americans said the presidency of George W. Bush has been a failure and that they would be more likely to vote for congressional candidates who oppose him. ...

Fifty-two percent of adults said Bush's administration since 2001 has been a failure, down from 55 percent in October. Fifty- eight percent described his second term as a failure. At the same point in former President Bill Clinton's presidency, 70 percent of those surveyed by Gallup said they considered it a success and 20 percent a failure.

In a poll conducted in January of 2002, after Bush was president for one year, 83 percent of those surveyed said his presidency was a success.

In the new poll, conducted Jan. 20-22, fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to vote for congressional candidates who do not support Bush's policies.

The percentage of Americans who called Bush "honest and trustworthy" fell 7 percentage points in the last year to 49 percent, the poll found.

The new poll also found that 62 percent of Americans said they are "dissatisfied" with "the way things are going" in the U.S., unchanged from a December survey. The percentage of "dissatisfied" Americans reached its peak in October of 2005 when 68 percent of those surveyed agreed.


No Asylum for Lucia

Gen. Augusto Pinochet's daughter, Lucia, has been sent home to face the music.

A federal judge greeted a tired Lucia Pinochet Hiriart, 60, as she arrived from Buenos Aires, where she made a brief stopover after being sent back from Washington late Friday.

"Ms. Lucia, how nice that you've arrived, please come with me so that I can arraign you," Judge Carlos Cerda, who is handling the tax case against the Pinochet family, told her as she came off the plane.


Andrew Sullivan on "Getting Their Wives"

Andrew Sullivan comments on the news that the U.S. military in Iraq is holding wives hostage to get their husbands:

You may have heard of the tactic. As a way to leverage information or capture an enemy, terrorists sometimes kidnap innocent women and children in order to put pressure on their husbands or relatives. It's called kidnapping and blackmail. Except that in Rumsfeld's military, the United States now uses the tactic. Sure, it's against the Geneva Conventions. Sure, those Conventions are supposed to apply in Iraq. But this is the Bush administration. King George doesn't have to obey the law; and his military can do anything they want. The Pentagon has gotten used to denying hard evidence of abuse - and no one, of course, has been disciplined for following the instructions given ultimately in Washington. "It's very hard, obviously, from some of these documents to determine what, if anything, actually happened," says the Pentagon spokesman. No, it isn't. And so we slowly descend toward the level of the enemy. Because King George can.


Friday, January 27, 2006

U.S. Army in Iraq Detained Wives of Suspected Insurgents

Apparently, on at least two occasions, U.S. Army officers in Iraq arrested suspected insurgents' wives to pressure the husbands into giving themselves up.

Both incidents occurred in 2004. In one, members of a shadowy military task force seized a mother who had three young children, still nursing the youngest, "in order to leverage" her husband's surrender, according to an account by a civilian Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence officer.

In the other, an e-mail exchange includes a U.S. military officer asking "have you tacked a note on the door and challenged him to come get his wife?"

The documents were among thousands obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.

From ABC News:

The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of "leveraging" their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

Isn't that called kidnapping? It certainly is when a U.S. journalist like Jill Carroll is seized by insurgents who hope to "leverage" her life for the release of Iraqi women detained by the U.S. military.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family's door telling him "to come get his wife."

The issue of female detentions in Iraq has taken on a higher profile since kidnappers seized American journalist Jill Carroll on Jan. 7 and threatened to kill her unless all Iraqi women detainees are freed.

The U.S. military on Thursday freed five of what it said were 11 women among the 14,000 detainees currently held in the 2 1/2-year-old insurgency. All were accused of "aiding terrorists or planting explosives," but an Iraqi government commission found that evidence was lacking.

Iraqi human rights activist Hind al-Salehi contends that U.S. anti-insurgent units, coming up empty-handed in raids on suspects' houses, have at times detained wives to pressure men into turning themselves in.

Iraq's deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim Ali, dismissed such claims, saying hostage-holding was a tactic used under the ousted Saddam Hussein dictatorship, and "we are not Saddam." A U.S. command spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, said only Iraqis who pose an "imperative threat" are held in long-term U.S.-run detention facilities.

But documents describing two 2004 episodes tell a different story as far as short-term detentions by local U.S. units. The documents are among hundreds the Pentagon has released periodically under U.S. court order to meet an American Civil Liberties Union request for information on detention practices.

In one memo, a civilian Pentagon intelligence officer described what happened when he took part in a raid on an Iraqi suspect's house in Tarmiya, northwest of Baghdad, on May 9, 2004. The raid involved Task Force (TF) 6-26, a secretive military unit formed to handle high-profile targets.

"During the pre-operation brief it was recommended by TF personnel that if the wife were present, she be detained and held in order to leverage the primary target's surrender," wrote the 14-year veteran officer.

He said he objected, but when they raided the house the team leader, a senior sergeant, seized her anyway.

"The 28-year-old woman had three young children at the house, one being as young as six months and still nursing," the intelligence officer wrote. She was held for two days and was released after he complained, he said. [How long would she have been held if he hadn't complained?]

Like most names in the released documents, the officer's signature is blacked out on this for-the-record memorandum about his complaint.

Of this case, command spokesman Johnson said he could not judge, months later, the factors that led to the woman's detention.

The second episode, in June 2004, is found in sketchy detail in e-mail exchanges among six U.S. Army colonels, discussing an undisclosed number of female detainees held in northern Iraq by the Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.

The first message, from a military police colonel, advised staff officers of the U.S. northern command that the Iraqi police would not take control of the jailed women without charges being brought against them.

In a second e-mail, a command staff officer asked an officer of the unit holding the women, "What are you guys doing to try to get the husband have you tacked a note on the door and challenged him to come get his wife?"

Two days later, the brigade's deputy commander advised the higher command, "As each day goes by, I get more input that these gals have some info and/or will result in getting the husband."

He went on, "These ladies fought back extremely hard during the original detention. They have shown indications of deceit and misinformation." [So now when a woman resists being unlawfully seized and detained, her resistance itself is a sign of deceit?]

The command staff colonel wrote in reply, referring to a commanding general, "CG wants the husband."

The released e-mails stop there, and the women's eventual status could not be immediately determined.

So "they" kidnap a female journalist and threaten to kill her if demands aren't met. And "we" seize Iraqi mothers with small children who are not weaned from the breast yet and hold them hostage for the lives of their husbands. That moral high ground is more gravel than granite.

Here are the original documents: The e-mail exchange and the DIA officer's report.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pinochet's Daughter Requests Asylum in U.S.

So Lucia Pinochet, the daughter of Gen. Augusto Pinochet -- mass murderer and former head of the military junta that ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990 -- thinks she's a victim of political persecution and wants the United States to grant her asylum following her arrest at Dulles International Airport on an outstanding warrant from the Chilean government. She's charged with tax evasion and carrying a false passport.

Lucia insists that she did nothing wrong and was only indicted because Chile's current leaders are on a political campaign to "defame each and every member of [her] family."

A pretty cheeky complaint, considering the atrocities for which the Pinochet regime is responsible.

Among its dramatic findings, the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture appointed by Chilean President Ricardo Lagos found that 94 percent of the people detained in the aftermath of the coup reported having been tortured. One of the most common methods of torture, reported in more than a third of the cases, was the application of electrical shocks.

Of the 3,400 women who testified, nearly all said that they had suffered sexual torture. More than 300 said that they were raped, including 11 who were pregnant when detained. Many of these women said they had never reported their experiences before.

The worst period of torture was immediately after the military coup in September 1973. More than 18,000 people -- two-thirds of the total number -- were tortured during the four months after the coup, the commission said. Detentions were indiscriminate, and most of the victims were innocent civilians. The commission identified more than 1,000 sites used to torture prisoners, including schools and hospitals as well as police stations and military installations.

Another 5,266 people were tortured from January 1974 until August 1977, a period during which secret military intelligence agencies, such as the Directorate of National Intelligence (Direccion Nacional de Inteligencia, or DINA) and the Combined Command (Comando Conjunto) took over the repression of left-wing dissidents from other military units.

Ms. Pinochet may find it quite onerous to be charged with tax and passport fraud; and I'm sure being the daughter of a psychopath has its difficult side, but the hundreds of Chileans whose bodies were thrown into the ocean, tied to heavy pieces of railroad track so they would sink, weren't able to get asylum in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave -- so I don't see why Ms. Pinochet should get asylum simply because the consequences of being indicted for tax evasion and carrying a fraudulent passport are unpleasant.

And she probably won't. Although the State Department said that Ms. Pinochet would be interviewed by an asylum judge, Chile's foreign minister, Ignacio Walker, doesn't expect her application to be approved.

Walker said the U.S. government told Chile on Wednesday that Pinochet was being transferred to an immigration service detention center and that a decision could be made on her request for asylum within three days.

"We are absolutely confident that it will be rejected," Walker said.

Pinochet "was the target of an international arrest warrant issued by a Chilean judge," said Chilean presidential spokesman Osvaldo Puccio.

Right. How would it look for the United States to grant asylum to the daughter of a man who presided over one of the most brutal dictatorships of the last century? Particularly when the U.S. supported the military coup that overthrew Salvador Allende's democratically elected government and put Gen. Pinochet into power? It would be a public relations disaster, maybe even more so because of the odd coincidence of the month and day in 1973 on which the coup occurred: September 11.


Google in China

Even though Michelle Malkin's politics are reptilian, I have to admit this is hilarious. Still, it's astonishing, if not repulsive, that the same person who made a lot of money writing a book that defended the internment of American citizens for their Japanese ancestry would be offended when Google, motivated by the desire to make a lot of money, gives in to pressure from the Chinese government to censor search results for Google users in China.

Why is it more reprehensible for Google to help China control what the Chinese people can read than it was for the U.S. government to evict Japanese-Americans from their homes and forcibly remove them to prison camps for no other reason than their ethnicity?


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

U.S. Outsourced Torture and European Governments Knew

Dick Marty is a Swiss senator and the head of a just-completed European investigation into the issue of C.I.A. secret prisons in Europe. Marty says the investigation found no evidence of secret prisons in Romania or Poland, as Human Rights Watch alleged; but there was evidence that the United States sent detainees to countries known to practice torture, and that European governments knew about it.

The Council of Europe launched its probe after allegations surfaced in November that U.S. agents interrogated key al-Qaida suspects at clandestine prisons in eastern Europe and transported some suspects to other countries passing through Europe.

Human Rights Watch identified Romania and Poland as possible sites of secret U.S.-run detention facilities. Both countries have denied involvement, and Marty's report said there was no formal, irrefutable evidence of secret CIA prisons in either country, or anywhere else in Europe.

Clandestine detention centers would violate European human rights treaties.
"On the other hand, it has been proved that individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and all rights and transported to different destinations in Europe to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered degrading treatment and torture," the report said.

Eric Alterman has little doubt that the Bush administration will point to Marty's findings as proof of pure heart and clean hands [scroll up; Eric's permalink jumps to the wrong post]:

It's a rather amazing but telling sign o' the times that it will be considered a measure of exoneration of the Bush administration that the European Commission says the administration was not necessarily setting up secret gulag-style torture camps in Poland and Romania, but merely sending suspects to be tortured in nations where doing so does not present much of a problem, politically. ...Of course, this does not mean the Poland and Romania stories are false. I doubt that. We know from Brian Ross's redacted reporting on ABC News, [which] I discussed here, that the CIA probably rolled up these operations just before Condi Rice's plane touched down in these countries after they were exposed by Human Rights Watch and The Washington Post. What this means, most likely, is that the US got the Europeans to play ball on behalf of these countries' governments -- who might not survive the revelation were it confirmed at home -- or that the CIA is showing a rare degree of competence in rolling them up so effectively that the investigation can find no traces of them. Still, it is a measure of how low this administration has taken us that its new slogan may be "We don't torture (much). We just pay torturers to do our work for us."


Rumsfeld Rejects Negative Reports About Army

Donald Rumsfeld has rejected the findings of two separate reports that the U.S. Army is stretched to the breaking point by multiple combat tours and insufficient troop levels, as well as increasingly severe recruitment and retention problems.

One of the reports was commissioned by the Pentagon; but clearly Rumsfeld does not like its conclusions.

The first, a report on the Iraq war that was commissioned by the Pentagon and made public Tuesday, said defense officials risk "breaking the force" if current troop levels are maintained in both countries without increasing the size of the Army or slowing the pace of deployments.

The second, issued Wednesday by Democrats on Capitol Hill, warned that unless the strain on the Army and Marine Corps is relieved soon, "it will have highly corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force." Over time, it argued, the services would be weakened and the country would be more vulnerable to potential enemies.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld rejected both reports, saying that "it's clear that those comments do not reflect the current situation. They are either out of date or just misdirected."

Rumsfeld said he hadn't read either report. Recounting the quick initial victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said the Army wasn't broken, "but enormously capable."

What an ass. How can he reject the conclusions of reports he hasn't even read?


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

PRES. BUSH TOLD A LOCAL AUDIENCE at Kansas State University that his authorization of wiretapping against Americans without search warrants is both legal and necessary.

Arguing that his administration had repeatedly informed congressional leaders about the NSA program, the president said, "If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?"

Bush offered his lengthiest public explanation of what the administration has taken to calling the "terrorist surveillance program" since it was revealed last month, much to his dismay.

Referring approvingly to a 2004 Supreme Court case, he told an audience here: "I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you what it means: It means Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics. It said, 'Mr. President, you've got the power to protect us, but we're not going to tell you how.'"

The court said that the resolution Congress passed shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks granting Bush the authority to use whatever force necessary to protect the nation from terrorism gave him, as commander in chief, the power to hold prisoners who were captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Here is the complete text of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF):

To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.

Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and

Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and

Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and

Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and

Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This joint resolution may be cited as the `Authorization for Use of Military Force'.


(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-

(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

Approved September 18, 2001.

I don't see anything in there that allows the President of the United States to spy on Americans' phone and e-mail communications without a search warrant. Neither did Jack Balkin, when he wrote back in mid-December that the claim that the AUMF authorized warrantless wiretapping "doesn't pass the laugh test."

...it is simply inconceivable that any member of Congress, let alone a majority, intended by voting for the AUMF to allow circumvention of the FISA-court approval mechanism as to the wiretapping of communications involving U.S. persons. (If the AUMF had authorized such interceptions, why did the Administration seek and receive amendments to FISA in the PATRIOT Act? Why, in 2003, did the Justice Department draft further amendments to FISA -- including to section 1802 in particular -- without mentioning the surgery that had been performed by the AUMF, and why in that draft is the "U.S. person" limitation accurately described as if it had not been amended?)

An excellent question. Here is the limitation to which Jack refers:

50 U.S.C. § 1802 allows the Attorney General to authorize electronic surveillance for up to a year, without the FISA Court's prior approval, in two narrow circumstances: (1) if the surveillance is are directed solely at communications between foreign powers; or (2) if the surveillance is directed solely at the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than spoken communications, from property under the exclusive control of a foreign power. In addition, the Attorney General must certify that there is no substantial likelihood that such surveillance will acquire the communications of U.S. persons. (In essence, § 1802 authorizes the surveillance of communications between foreign governments, and between a foreign government and its embassy.) Section 1802 is of limited use, however, because it explicitly prohibits efforts to acquire spoken communications. ...

In fact, the only specific action authorized by the September 18 resolution is "the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States."

So where are the strict constructionists who will defend Congress from the Bush administration's attempts to legislate from the Oval Office?

As for "informing congressional leaders about the NSA program," what that amounted to was briefing a handful of senior members of Congress whose concerns were not taken seriously by the Bush administration and who were barred from making their concerns known to the rest of Congress or the public because the information was classified. I share Cathy Young's feeling that this does not constitute meaningful legislative oversight.

Meanwhile, Gen. Michael Hayden, a high-ranking intelligence officer at the Office of National Intelligence, strongly hinted at the real reason for Bush's decision to bypass the courts and allow the NSA to wiretap Americans without search warrants.

Inherent foreign intelligence value is one of the metrics we must use. Let me repeat that: Inherent foreign intelligence value is one of the metrics we must use to ensure that we conform to the Fourth Amendment's reasonable standard when it comes to protecting the privacy of these kinds of people. If the U.S. person information isn't relevant, the data is suppressed. It's a technical term we use; we call it "minimized." The individual is not even mentioned. Or if he or she is, he or she is referred to as "U.S. Person Number One" or "U.S. Person Number Two." Now, inherent intelligence value. If the U.S. person is actually the named terrorist, well, that could be a different matter. The standard by which we decided that, the standard of what was relevant and valuable, and therefore, what was reasonable, would understandably change, I think, as smoke billowed from two American cities and a Pennsylvania farm field. And we acted accordingly.

Here is the text of the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

So "reasonableness" is NOT the standard for allowing search and seizure. It's what a search and seizure has to be in order to pass constitutional muster. What constitutes a "reasonable" search and seizure? Probable cause. Probable cause is the standard for judging whether a search and seizure is reasonable.

Why would Hayden ignore the requirement to prove that there is probable cause to believe a search and seizure is reasonable?

Glenn Greenwald thinks it's because a good number of the Bush administration's wiretap requests fell short of the probable cause standard; and the Bush administration wanted a weaker standard.

I don't agree, though, that Gen. Hayden "claim[ed]" that "the 'probable cause' standard for obtaining a FISA warrant was too onerous (and prevented them from obtaining warrants they needed to eavesdrop)," and that this is why the Bushies decided to spy on Americans without warrants. The closest he came to a straightforward claim was this:

You know, the 9/11 commission criticized our ability to link things happening in the United States with things that were happening elsewhere. In that light, there are no communications more important to the safety of this country than those affiliated with al Qaeda with one end in the United States. The president's authorization allows us to track this kind of call more comprehensively and more efficiently. The trigger is quicker and a bit softer than it is for a FISA warrant, but the intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls and only those we have a reasonable basis to believe involve al Qaeda or one of its affiliates.

What Hayden actually did was much less honest than a "claim" would have been. Hayden never said that the Bush administration wanted to substitute a "reasonable suspicion" standard for the constitutionally required "probable cause" standard. Rather, he simply spoke about the Fourth Amendment as though the words "probable cause" did not exist.

Take a look at Hayden's response to Jonathan Landay of Knight-Ridder during the question-and-answer period at the end of Hayden's speech:

QUESTION: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue, and that had to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use --

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But the --

GEN. HAYDEN: That's what it says.

QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: But does it not say probable --

GEN. HAYDEN: No. The amendment says --

QUESTION: The court standard, the legal standard --

GEN. HAYDEN: -- unreasonable search and seizure.

QUESTION: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, "We reasonably believe." And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say "we reasonably believe"; you have to go to the FISA court, or the attorney general has to go to the FISA court and say, "we have probable cause." And so what many people believe -- and I'd like you to respond to this -- is that what you've actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of "reasonably believe" in place in probable cause because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief, you have to show probable cause. Could you respond to that, please?

GEN. HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order. All right? The attorney general has averred to the lawfulness of the order.

Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

There you have it. When specifically challenged by a reporter (not surprisingly, a Knight-Ridder reporter) to say whether the Bush administration wanted to get around the "probable cause" standard of proof for getting a wiretap warrant, he denied it. He said no, we're not trying to get around anything; the Fourth Amendment standard is "reasonable," not "probable cause."

This kind of flat-out bald-faced lie (that the Fourth Amendment's standard is not probable cause) bothers me much more than if Hayden had said honestly that they wanted to get around the standard. With the text of the Fourth Amendment available to anyone with an Internet connection or a library card, the man actually insists that the words "probable cause" are not even in it.


Monday, January 23, 2006

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS THAT Al Qaeda's popularity has soared in the remote, mountainous region of Pakistan where U.S. airstrikes destroyed three homes and killed at least 18 civilians.

NewsBusters, which advertises its purpose as "Exposing and Combating Liberal Media Bias," thinks the AP misrepresents the seriousness of this news by burying the information that the increased sympathy for Al Qaeda is in a part of Pakistan that has always been pro-Taliban.

However, one has to get deep into this article to find the truth, namely, that this is and has been a pro-Taliban part of Pakistan for quite some time. ...
I guess it wouldn't have been as interesting an article if it had lead with this minor fact. And, the headline would certainly have been less enticing if it read "Sympathy For Al-Qaeda Surges in Pro-Taliban Part of Pakistan."

Bizarre. Like the fact that the area was already pro-al Qaeda means it doesn't matter if it becomes even more so. I guess the idea is that this remote part of Pakistan is an impregnable bubble, and nothing that happens inside the bubble will have any affect or impact on the world outside it.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

ABC NEWS HAS A PIECE about how Osama bin Laden seems to have found a safe, comfy sanctuary for as long as he needs and wants it, in some remote region of Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The architect of mass murder on several continents, the man whose fanaticism, cruelty and leadership have changed the world, has surfaced once again on a new audiotape first aired Thursday on the al Jazeera television network.

The new audiotape marks the 19th time since the attacks of 9/11 that bin Laden, the mastermind of the deaths of thousands of Americans and others around the world, has spoken to the world.

Each time, somehow, bin Laden has found a way to smuggle his words and threats from his hideouts in remote Pakistan and Afghanistan and get them to al Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar.
After the new tape, one thing was clear.

"He's alive," said Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief who is now an ABC News consultant. "And some of us had begun to doubt that because we hadn't received an audio or a videotape in 13 months."

What's also fairly clear from bin Laden's continued survival is that he has found a place to hide.

"He's fundamentally alive because he exists in a sanctuary in Pakistan," said former U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane, now an ABC News consultant.

Keane, deputy chief of the Army when the hunt for bin Laden began, said Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was essentially powerless in the remote tribal areas where bin Laden hides.

"There's no rule of law there," Keane said. "There's no police there. There's no enforcement of government authority. There's no true Pakistani authority there. And they are in a sense protected. In every sense of the word, it is a sanctuary."

On the new tape, bin Laden heaps contempt on President Bush, who once pledged to get him "dead or alive," and directly threatens Americans with fresh attacks. Our homeland security preparations, he boasted, mean nothing to him. He says he is patient and will strike again.

"Those operations are under way," bin Laden announced in Arabic. "And you will see them in your midst as soon as they are done, Allah willing."

Clarke said bin Laden's reappearance now was ominous.

"He's saying that attacks will take place very soon in the United States," Clarke said. "That's very specific. That's not the kind of thing that he says, I think, lightly."
The former senior officer of the U.S. Special Forces who spoke to ABC News anonymously suggested bin Laden might be living fairly comfortably right now.

"If he's living in the village -- and he probably does move around to different villages and different homes; they have lots [of] money, and there's lots of money in that area, in any event -- I think he's eating very well," the former officer said. "I think he's probably got more than ample and satisfactory living conditions."

He said his old colleagues thought bin Laden might be trying to disguise himself.

"One hears from friends and colleagues and so on that he has changed his appearance significantly, maybe even had some reconstructive facial surgery, shaved," he said. "I think in my own personal opinion, that's why we have not seen a video of him in well over a year."

Clarke says that bin Laden's direct command of al Qaeda may be weakened by his isolation, but that may be a small consolation.

"He probably doesn't have much of an operational capability left," Clarke said. "But how much does it take? It took 19 people to do 9/11."

So the United States spent billions of dollars in a war that has cost thousands of lives, American and Afghan, and Osama bin Laden not only is still alive, but has a highly secure hiding place where most likely no one will be able to find him. Al Qaeda is still in operation, and it has more followers and admirers than it did before 9/11, thanks to the war in Iraq, which has bled America of both its human and economic treasure, and fueled terrorist recruitment even while our own military is having trouble meeting its recruitment goals.

Most important, the United States and the rest of the world is still threatened by the mass murdering terrorist mastermind of 9/11.

One would think that the stars of the conservative blogosphere would be incensed about this. But they're not. Instead, right-wing blogger luminaries like Michelle Malkin and whoever the guy is who writes Little Green Footballs are incensed about the wording of an AP caption:

Via the always eagle-eyed Little Green Footballs, check out the caption on the Associated Press photo of Osama bin Laden running today at Yahoo.com:

The caption reads: "Exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden is seen in this April 1998 file photo in Afghanistan. Al-Jazeera aired an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006, saying al-Qaida is making preparations for attacks in the United States but offering a truce to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan."

Malkin fumes:

Got that? Osama isn't a mass-murdering terrorist mastermind. He's just a poor, exiled dissident who disagrees with civilization.

Why is Michelle Malkin more upset that the AP refers to OBL in a photo caption as a "Saudi dissident" rather than as a "mass-murdering terrorist mastermind" than she is about the fact that this mass-murdering terrorist mastermind is still at large and free to plan terrorist attacks more than four years after 9/11?


Friday, January 20, 2006

HERE IS A SAMPLING of the best (and worst) of the blogger commentary about the audiotape (with what the CIA has confirmed is Osama bin Laden's voice) broadcast on Al-Jazeera yesterday:


On the tape, bin Laden suggests a truce in Iraq. To which I say, whoop-di-doo. Only 7 percent of the people we're fighting in Iraq are affiliated with al Qaeda, according to authoritative sources, and we don't know how many of the 7 percent actually take orders from bin Laden. Osama's talkin' out of his butt, says I.

Our little altercation in Afghanistan may have started out as a conflict between al Qaeda and supporters versus Afghan freedom fighters with western military support. And the scuffle in Iraq may have been conceived as one between BushCo and anti-western Islamic terrorism. But it seems to me that the violence in both countries is spinning out of control and is in the hands of more conflicting factions than you can shake a kufie at. It's way past the point where two sides can shake hands and make a deal, even if they both wanted to. We're not in control over there, but neither is Osama bin Laden.

Barbara also notes the mindless linkage on the right between antiwar groups like MoveOn.org, and Osama bin Laden, based on the fact that both can read polls.

Shakespeare's Sister:

...this exemplifies why Bush's plan for the war on terror is so bloody bad -- it's left us between a rock and a hard place without a good solution. Endless warmongering in which innocent people suffer, or endless oppression by religious fanatics in which innocent people suffer. I don't know if there is a good plan at this point to extricate ourselves, and, more importantly, those innocent people, from this madness. We probably just need to hand the reins to Juan Cole and hope for the best.

Red Hot Cuppa Politics:

I was reassured that Bush rejected Bin Laden's offer of a truce last night.

The offer of a truce is a truly marvelous thing. First, it would give them time to re-group. Second, if we're in a truce with Al Quada, we won't be expecting a surprise attack. Third, it shows that Bin Laden to be an astute Democrat, as referred to on the RushLimbaugh show yesterday; the offer will doubtless be taken up by various liberal factions in the USA.

Finally ... according to Islamic Law, you have to offer a truce before you attack someone.

And the "someone" has to reject the truce before you can attack, you moron. So you should be alarmed, not reassured, that Bush rejected the truce offer. He has now made it acceptable under Islamic law to attack us.

Now, do I really believe that Osama bin Laden is going to pay attention to what Islamic law actually requires? No, of course I don't. No more than I believe that whoever writes Red Hot Cuppa Politics, knows even enough about Islamic law to fill a thimble, much less a cup.

The official Bush administration response:

The Bush administration quickly rejected bin Laden's offer. "We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. Vice President Cheney told Fox News Channel: "It sounds to me like it's some kind of ploy. This is not an organization that's ever going to sit down and sign a truce. I think you have to destroy them." [Emphasis mine.]

Laughter is too obvious a response to McClellan's and Cheney's statements. Have we put them out of business yet? Have we destroyed them yet? Or have we actually done precisely the opposite? These claims invite derision. We put the terrorists in business and sent as many customers their way as possible! We didn't "destroy this organization." We metastasized it.

Also, note the lack of logic in Cheney saying that Al Qaeda is not "an organization that's ever going to sit down and sign a truce" when he has just announced that the United States will never sign a truce.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

INTERESTING COMBINATION of stories in the Christian Science Monitor's Terrorism and Security Report.

The CSM reports that Condoleezza Rice has announced that hundreds of diplomats stationed in Europe will be moved to countries in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Further, she says that diplomats who aspire to move into senior positions will have to "accept assignment in a dangerous position, become an expert in at least two regions, and become fluent in at least two languages," such as Chinese, Arabic, or Urdu.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch slammed the United States for deliberately choosing a policy of torture and secret detention; and said that this choice by the world's most powerful and influential nation left a void in global human rights leadership.

Reuters reports that the group said the evidence showed abusive interrogation cannot be "be reduced to the misdeeds of a few low-ranking soldiers, but was a conscious policy choice by senior US government officials. The policy has hampered Washington's ability to cajole or pressure other states into respecting international law, said the 532-page volume's introductory essay."

"Fighting terrorism is central to the human rights cause," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "But using illegal tactics against alleged terrorists is both wrong and counterproductive."

Mr. Roth also said the tactic was fueling terrorism recruitment, "discouraging public assistance of counterterrorism efforts and creating a pool of unprosecutable detainees."

There is no direct connection between these two items; but I am struck by a certain symmetry in the idea that, on the one hand, the United States is abdicating its responsibilities as a human rights leader, endangering its broader security interests, and "fueling terrorist recruitment"; and on the other hand, is finding it necessary to beef up its diplomatic presence in countries that were largely ignored or underserved before. This symmetry is especially noticeable, for me, in this statement by Condi Rice, regarding the new policy:

"In the 21st century, emerging nations like India and China, and Brazil and Egypt, and Indonesia and South Africa are increasingly shaping the course of history. ..."
Adding that there are still almost 200 world cities of over a million inhabitants without any US presence -- despite its 7,440-strong diplomatic corps abroad -- Ms. Rice indicated "This is where the action is today, and this is where we must be."

Doesn't this seem like a tacit acknowledgment of a shift in the global locus of power? If U.S. power and authority in the world really is starting to wane (in large part because of conscious policy choices like the decision to abandon globally accepted norms of human rights), then a felt need to strengthen U.S. diplomatic presence in a part of the world that is "increasingly shaping the course of history" would make sense.


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH's annual report, released today, sharply criticized the United States for abdicating its responsibility to be a human rights leader, by deliberately choosing to violate international standards for the treatment of prisoners during wartime. In making this choice, the Bush administration has "undercut broader American interests."

"In the course of 2005, it became indisputable that U.S. mistreatment of detainees reflected not a failure of training, discipline or oversight, but a deliberate policy choice," the rights group said in a sweeping critique in its annual report. "The problem could not be reduced to a few bad apples at the bottom of the barrel."

The group said the United States' detainee practices, along with the accusations that torture has possibly taken place at secret camps, had, together with what it said was a tendency of some Europeans to put business ahead of rights concerns, produced a "global leadership void" in defending human rights.

The patented White House response that the United States does more to advance human rights than any other country, and that other countries do far worse things than we do, and that HRW should focus on those countries, doesn't wash.

...the report takes the United States to task because of its predominant role and its history of championing human rights abroad. "Any discussion of detainee abuse in 2005 must begin with the United States, not because it is the worst violator but because it is the most influential." ... [Emphasis mine.]

In other words, if a country wants to be known as the world leader in support for human rights and freedom, it can't go around sending prisoners to be boiled alive in Uzbekistan or waterboarded in Eastern Europe.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

SIMON JENKINS IN THE GUARDIAN on why the Bush administration's preferred sledgehammer approach to conflict resolution won't get us anywhere with Iran:

Iran is a serious country, not another two-bit post-imperial rogue waiting to be slapped about the head by a white man. It is the fourth largest oil producer in the world. Its population is heading towards 80 million by 2010. Its capital, Tehran, is a mighty metropolis half as big again as London. Its culture is ancient and its political life is, to put it mildly, fluid.

All the following statements about Iran are true. There are powerful Iranians who want to build a nuclear bomb. There are powerful ones who do not. There are people in Iran who would like Israel to disappear. There are people who would not. There are people who would like Islamist rule. There are people who would not. There are people who long for some idiot western politician to declare war on them. There are people appalled at the prospect. The only question for western strategists is which of these people they want to help.

Of all the treaties passed in my lifetime the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) always seemed the most implausible. It was an insiders' club that any outsider could defy with a modicum of guile. So it has proved. America, sitting armed to the teeth across Korea's demilitarised zone, has let North Korea become a nuclear power despite a 1994 promise that it would not. America supported Israel in going nuclear. Britain and America did not balk at India doing so, nor Pakistan when it not only built a bomb but deceitfully disseminated its technology in defiance of sanctions. Three flagrant dissenters from the NPT are thus regarded by America as friends.

I would sleep happier if there were no Iranian bomb but a swamp of hypocrisy separates me from overly protesting it. Iran is a proud country that sits between nuclear Pakistan and India to its east, a nuclear Russia to its north and a nuclear Israel to its west. Adjacent Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied at will by a nuclear America, which backed Saddam Hussein in his 1980 invasion of Iran. How can we say such a country has "no right" to nuclear defence?

I don't believe any country has a "right" to nuclear weapons. The question is, How can the United States realistically expect Iran to give up on a nuclear defense program when, as Jenkins says, Iran is surrounded by nuclear powers, several of which have full U.S. support?

That is one of the questions. Another one is: Why is the Bush administration so blind-sided by the Iran threat? We opened the door to this by overthrowing the Sunni regime in Iraq:

At this very moment, US officials in Baghdad are on their knees begging Iran-backed Shia politicians and militias to help them get out of Iraq. From Basra to the suburbs of Baghdad, Iranian influence is dominant. Iranian posters adorned last month's elections. Whatever Bush and Blair thought they were doing by invading Iraq, they must have known the chief beneficiary from toppling the Sunni ascendancy would be Shia Iran. They cannot now deny the logic of their own policy. Democracy itself is putting half Iraq in thrall to its powerful neighbour.

If Iran is the "regional superstate," as Jenkins says it is, the Bush administration is largely responsible.


CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS has signed on to the ACLU lawsuit challenging Pres. Bush's secret warrantless wiretapping program.

Although I am named in this suit in my own behalf, I am motivated to join it by concerns well beyond my own. I have been frankly appalled by the discrepant and contradictory positions taken by the Administration in this matter. First, the entire existence of the NSA's monitoring was a secret, and its very disclosure denounced as a threat to national security.
We are, in essence, being asked to trust the state to know best. What reason do we have for such confidence? The agencies entrusted with our protection have repeatedly been shown, before and after the fall of 2001, to be conspicuous for their incompetence and venality.

I couldn't agree more. But it is a bit cognitively dissonant to read Chris Hitchens asking what reason we have to trust the state to know best. Hasn't he been the one railing against "phony peaceniks" who are not really antiwar, but only pro-war for the "other side"?

Once again, we see the power of self-interest to sway a man's opinion.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

SCOTUS Upholds Oregon's Physician-Assisted Suicide Law

The Supreme Court today slapped down the Bush administration's attempt to impose penalties on Oregon doctors who help terminally ill patients end their lives.

The case, Gonzales v. Oregon, challenged an "Interpretive Ruling" issued by former Attorney General John Ashcroft in which Ashcroft claimed that physicians who prescribed lethal doses of medications under Oregon's Death With Dignity Act were violating the federal Controlled Substances Act.

The CSA regulates and controls drug trafficking, including the dispensation of prescription drugs. Physicians can be prosecuted under the law if they are not prescribing drugs for a legitimate medical purpose. Oregon's assisted-suicide law allows physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients -- under tightly defined circumstances -- without fear of prosecution. But the Bush administration, in yet another example of its expansive view of federal powers, claimed that physicians who did so were not dispensing drugs for a "legitimate medical purpose."

SCOTUS rejected that argument:

In a 6-3 vote, the court ruled that then-U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft overstepped his authority in 2001 by trying to use a federal drug law to prosecute doctors who prescribed lethal overdoses under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act, the only law in the nation that allows physician-assisted suicide. The measure has been approved twice by Oregon voters and upheld by lower court rulings.
Writing the opinion of the court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the federal law bars doctors from using prescriptions to engage in illicit drug dealing but that "the statute manifests no intent to regulate the practice of medicine generally." Moreover, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) relies on "a functioning medical profession regulated under the states' police powers," he wrote.

"In the face of the CSA's silence on the practice of medicine generally and its recognition of state regulation of the medical profession, it is difficult to defend the Attorney General's declaration that the statute impliedly criminalizes physician-assisted suicide," Kennedy wrote.

The dissenters were Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and the new Chief Justice, John Roberts.

Scalia wrote, in part:

"If the term 'legitimate medical purpose' has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death."

Curious that Scalia should have this concern. He is not, to my knowledge, troubled by the legal dispensation of drugs to produce death in this context. Even though medical participation in capital punishment is a total violation of medical ethics.


"I'll give you my liberty; just keep me safe."

Michael Kinsley, in Slate:

Most of us are not Patrick Henry and would be willing to lose a great deal of freedom in order to save our lives. This is especially true when the freedom in question is that of foreigners with funny names, but it is true of our own freedom as well. ...


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


If you are a "disruptor" committing a "security breach" in a "restricted area" at a "Special Event of National Significance" or a "National Special Security Event" when "the president or another person under the protection of the service is in attendance."

Okay. But how do you know if you're a "disrupter," or just an American citizen exercising your First Amendment rights?

The short answer, of course, is: Don't worry. Trust us. We'll let you know.

If you want more details, though, check here.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Letter From A Birmingham Jail

Rather than post Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, I decided to choose another jewel from King's career: the letter he wrote to the white clergy of Birmingham, Alabama, who chose to criticize King and his followers for marching peacefully in protest against segregation and police brutality in that city. Here is the letter to which King was responding. Here is a portion of King's response, "Letter From A Birmingham Jail":

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was "well timed," according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the words [sic]"Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."
...An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or creating because they did not have the unhampered right to vote. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up the segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout the state of Alabama all types of conniving methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters and there are some counties without a single Negro registered to vote despite the fact that the Negro constitutes a majority of the population. Can any law set up in such a state be considered democratically structured?
We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws. I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
In your statement you asserted that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But can this assertion be logically made? Isn't this like condemning the robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical delvings precipitated the misguided popular mind to make him drink the hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because His unique God-Consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to His will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? ...

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth of time. I received a letter this morning from a white brother in Texas which said: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great of a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost 2000 years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of time. It is the the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. I am coming to feel that the people of ill-will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy, and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom; something without has reminded him that he can gain it. Consciously and unconsciously, he has been swept in by what the Germans call the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa, and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, he is moving with a sense of cosmic urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. Recognizing this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand public demonstrations. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations. He has to get them out. So let him march sometime; let him have his prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; understand why he must have sit-ins and freedom rides. If his repressed emotions do not come out in these nonviolent ways, they will come out in ominous expressions of violence. This is not a threat; it is a fact of history. ...
I must close now. But before closing I am impelled to mention one other point in your statement that troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I don't believe you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its angry violent dogs literally biting six unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I don't believe you would so quickly commend the policemen if you would observe their ugly and inhuman treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you would watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you would see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you will observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I'm sorry that I can't join you in your praise for the police department.
I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of the most inhuman provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, courageously and with a majestic sense of purpose, facing jeering and hostile mobs and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two year old woman of Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride the segregated buses, and responded to one who inquired about her tiredness with ungrammatical profundity; "my feet is tired, but my soul is rested." They will be the young high school and college students, young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders courageously and nonviolently sitting-in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience's sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, and thusly, carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written a letter this long, (or should I say a book?). I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else is there to do when you are alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell other than write long letters, think strange thoughts, and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader, but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.