Thursday, December 30

Justice disavows torture - finally!

WASHINGTON(AP) The Justice Department is issuing a rewritten legal memo on the meaning of torture, backing away from its own assertions prior to the Iraqi prison abuse scandal that torture had to involve "excruciating and agonizing pain."

The 17-page document states flatly that torture violates U.S. and international law and omits two of the most controversial assertions made in now-disavowed 2002 Justice Department documents: that President Bush, as commander in chief in wartime, had authority superseding U.S. anti-torture laws and that U.S. personnel had several legal defenses against criminal liability in such cases.

"Consideration of the bounds of any such authority would be inconsistent with the president's unequivocal directive that United States personnel not engage in torture," said the memo from Daniel Levin, acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, to Deputy Attorney General James Comey.

Critics in Congress and many legal experts say the original documents set up a legal framework that led to abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at the U.S. prison camp for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After the Iraqi prison abuses came to light, the Justice Department in June disavowed its previous legal reasoning and set to work on the replacement document to be released Friday.

The Justice Department memo, dated Thursday, was being released less than a week before the Senate Judiciary Committee was to consider Bush's nomination of his chief White House counsel,
Alberto Gonzales, to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general.

Democrats have said they would question Gonzales closely on memos he wrote that were similar to the now-disavowed Justice Department documents that critics said appeared to justify torture.

The release also coincided with continuing revelations of possible detainee abuse, most recently a series of memos from FBI agents uncovered in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit alleging instances of Defense Department wrongdoing during a variety of interrogations.
The new Justice Department memo sets a far different tone, beginning with this sentence: "Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms."

Battlestar Galactica : Seeds of Truth in Fiction

In 1978 Battlestar Galactica hit the airwaves. It was an ambitious show, borrowing heavily on the space opera themes and visual effect advances of the then recently released Star Wars, the Glen Larson ("The A Team") created show with scripts by Donald Belasarius ("Quantam Leap") and starring tv legend Lorne Green ("Bonanza") only aired 20 episodes - nevertheless has spawned a devoted world-wide following of fans and fanatics.

One year ago the Sci Fi Channel aired a 2-part mini-series which "re-imagined" the original Battlestar Galactic in a way that updated it's themes and visual style - and many of those original fans many of whom who had lobbied for a new version and/or continuation of the series - have subsequently blown a friggin gasket.

The Original Series (often referred to as "TOS") they argue, showed the triumph and resiliency of the human spirit and values in the face of an unimaginable and devastating genocidal tragedy. They argue that the new show has been transformed into a "PC feminized rip-off" that lacks any morality, character and heart of the original show.

Fans of the new show, which is scheduled to begin as a regular series on Sci Fi in January, have said that it is far less stilted, cheesy and kitch-laded adaptation of the story which looks far more realistically - borrowing stylistically from more recent cinimatic movies such as "Black Hawk Down". Many lead characters who had previously been without depth, introspection or character flaw have now become "3 dimensional". A sense of impending and continuing doom and danger has been added and most controversal of all some characters, notable the brash womanizing gambler hyper-lucky risk-taking fighter pilot Starback (Dirk Benedict) have changed gender from male to female.

I've long known that arguements - particularly online arguments and debate pertaining to music and art have a tendency to be far more vicious and vitriolic than debates about politics. However, this debate - which has raged for the past 12 months over a variety of different websites has frequently managed to fuse both art and politics into the mix.

Many fans of TOS appear to be Reagonite Republicans. Conservatives who embrace the "strong moral values" they feel are at the backbone of the show. They rail at the "senseless" changes in the characters gender - at turns accusing the newly feminize Starbuck of being a "dyke" and nothing more than "eye-candy" to attract adolescent viewers. They especially decried one scene in particular where one of the villianous cybernetic Cylons, who are the shows antagonists bent on the complete annihilation of the human race, apparently murders a single baby in it's crib for no other reason than perverse curiousity.

Fans of The New Show (frequently referred as TNS) have been frequently accused of being "soft lefties" and "communist".

Recently on the SciFI.com some of these people who've shown an incredible depth of passion and frequent eye for the most minute detail, have decided to take their battle over Galactica into another subject which parrellels the themes of TNS: 9/11 and The Iraq War.

Most sites on the net where this is discussed tend to be by design either pro-left or pro-right and many people essentially wind up "preaching to the converted". Not so on SciFi. I believe many of the no-holds-barred exchanges that the TOS vs TNS debate has sparked are illustrative of the mindset of many on the left and the right and how they have been in ideological war for the past few years.

Read on:

[A] war crime is when you whole sale slaughter people and uniformed POWs for no apparent reason.

The captured prisoners are not traditional POWs. They don't wear uniform, by tradition, it is in our full right to sumarily execute non-uniformed combatant as soon as they're [captured]. This administration have extended certain POWs rights, which are a huge mistake.

Being non-uniformed, they don't deserve the same treatment as uniformed soldiers. I have no problem whatsoever with the torture of irregular forces. In fact, I encourge such action to discourage that type of combatants from being [popularized].


Don’t you see where this is going?

You think torture is okay?

Did you learn nothing from history?

1. Torture has a history of not being very successful in extracting information. It usually makes the victim say whatever you like to hear.
2. Morally you are on the same level as all the Arab terrorists, with one difference (which makes it worse): you are the occupying force.
3. By your statements I cannot see any (moral) difference between you and the Nazis.
4. You think having a uniform makes any difference?

Do you understand how much disgust and hatred you are creating? If those are the superior values of America – or of Christianity – then its time that the world changes.

Besides: How would you feel about being caught by – say some Chinese – that just happened to “liberate” your country. Torture? You want some more?

<>
The US/Britain and their allies are the only one's with the BALLS to go in their and kick some arse. The Iraqi people will be able to vote into power who they wont and not have a dictator ruling over them anymore. As a Britain I'm ashamed that other European countries have turned their backs on the US although not surprised with France's decision

As for your second comment sometimes you have to go a little further in order to play them at their own games (fight fire with fire). These are people who use women and children plus use holy place's to launch attacks many of which don't even come from Iraq.

You dont win wars by having your hands tied behind your backs. Its hide enough now for our guys knowing they could end up getting arrested back in Britian for murder and what for, doing their rudy jobs. Christ I hate the do gooder brigades


We, the general public, were told that the invasion of Iraq was over the defence of our nations from terrorism. That we were under threat from WMD and funding of anti west terrorist groups by Saddam Hussein. Based on false intelligence!! Our leaders tried to deceive us of their motives.

I have a problem with that.

I don't have a problem with ousting a corrupt dictatorship, or placing democracy into a subdued populace, as long as that is what the target country wants.

This war is a long way from being over, and total actions such as Falujah, with the draconian post measures, will only turn the populace against the goal, extending the west's commitment.

Anyone else interested in who's funding the insurgence? Would a democratic state in the middle-east concern her neighbours?

Give it up. The America-haters are going to think that thugs and butchers who behead and target innocent people are righteous while they condemn the US and Brittain's attempt to bring democracy to a cesspool. You can't reason with people like that. These same morons (MooreOns) also look the other way when it is realized that the UN Oil for Weapons.. er, I mean food, er.. no I actually mean WEAPONS, program was a corrupt way of bypassing the sanctions. Saddam should have been ousted by 1995, but the weak-kneed loony lefties who were in charge were flipping retarded and allowed all things to fester. The hardcore left should never be allowed to have power again.


Quote:

Quote:

we did find plenty of dual-use items and components




No we didn't, a few dual-use items were found post invassion, but no forensic evidence, which would be almost impossible to scrub clean.




I notice that you cited Hans Blix and the head of the UN IAEA, but you only focused on what you wanted to be spoon fed by lefties.

Other reports, including British intelligence indicated and stand by their reports that Saddam tried to purchase uranium.

Let us also, though, look at chemical weapons. In terms of terrorist use, these are the easiest to weaponize. The infrastructure for dual-use facilities -- facilities which in the past had been used for producing chemical and biological weapons -- was being repaired using money from the UN Oil for Weapons program. Dual-use chemical precursors were being developed.

You can choose to interpret this information a number of ways, but I consider it to be threatening and needed to be dealt with.

It should also be noted that Iraq violated UN mandates heavily with regard to their missile programs.

It is fair to say that there is disagreement, even among the professionals, about what Iraq was capable of and what was being planned. I prefer to err on the side of caution on this and have the threat removed.


So Hans Blix is a lefty, is anyone who has a shred of evidence to falsify the original justification to go to war, a 'left-wing looney'. Would you be considered a right-wing nazi?

As to British intelligence having proof of Uranium sales to Iraq, are all pre 1989. Which could be argued can be projected, but no proof has arisen.

As to chemical and biological agents, we know he'd been active in their use, within his own boarders. But were more than likely destroyed after the first war. But there has been NO FORENSIC evidence that such dual-use equipment found post invasion, had ever contained these agents.

Again, they may well have been moved outside his borders.

As to his missile program, it was way off being inter-continental, the plan was to expand the basic scud range to over 400 miles. The US space programme should be testement to how long it takes and how difficult it is to develop such platforms.

I also would like to err on the side of caution, he, Saddam, should have been taken out...BUT, legally, with the backing of the UN. I know your opinion on the UN, to some extent, we share similar concerns. But the Bush administration was hell bent on going back to Iraq pre 9/11 !!!!! Which has only decreased UN authority, when it should have been strengthend.

As for chemical and Biological agents, they can be obtained or made, almost anywhere in the world, so I'm afraid we've not cut off the head of the source yet, nor likely ever to achieve. And, any links to international terrorism Iraq ever had are tenuous at the very least.

You'll notice the language used by the Bush administration has indirectly infered Al Queeda links, a large percentage of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein had connections to 9/11.

What has been achieved, is a state of paranoia between two religions and an esculation in hatred towards the west, re-inforcing the ranks the war on terrorism has tried to cull.


I didn't support the war. For the reasons, as follows:

1) Iraq posed no imminent danger to the US that required invasion. Saddam would have captiulated after playing some games again and while Osama was running around this was satisfactory in my opinion.

2) Which brings us to Osama was running around. Al-Quaeda was on the ropes but not dead and we let them off the hook. We diverted SOF units that had developed ties to the Pashtun into Iraq and backfilled them with units without the same capabilities or ties.

This lead to using more indig forces (both Pakistani and tribal) than was wise and IMHO was material in the escape of senior Al-Quada leadership.

3) Unilateral action by the US into Iraq clearly squandered any remaining good will after 9/11. International political capital is hard to get, we wasted it to crush a two bit dictator of no real importance.

4) The occupation in Iraq is more likely to cause the end of Pax Americana than a hundred Saddam Husseins.

Given the long term occupation this means a significant risk to the all-volunteer force.

Fewer folks will enter the reserves and the national guard units and these units represent a major portion of the total force (40%? Can't recall). The stop-loss program and the long deployments means a shallower pool of trained reservists for the next war.

5) In support of 4 the next big threat IMHO will be China. Given the financial stress of OIF we're seeing delays and cutbacks into both R&D and procurement to fund operations. Coupled with what I think will be a significantly downsized US military in the 2015 timeframe I suspect that if China was to make a move on the Taiwan straits that will be the right time and we wont be able to stop them.

In terms of total world production China is on the rise. By 2015 they will have the economic power to field a military capable of power projection. We'll have been paying for an expensive occupation for the better part of a decade.

If they play their cards right (the PRC) and stay the course then historians will point to OIF as the key decion point that lead to the decline of the US sphere of influence and the rise of a Chinese age.

This IMHO will be Bush's legacy and I'm too damn old to learn Mandarin and too damn young to be dead when it happens.


I was against the attack on Iraq from the very beginning. There was no reason whatsoever to attack a decaying third world desert country with a small and weakened 1970's era military.

"He was pursuing weapons of mass destruction."

Yeah Mr. President and so are 40 other countries in the world. Oh and by the way Mr. President. It was we the might world police USA that gave Saddam the nuke and bio/chem weapons back in the late 70's and early 80's.

Saddam was not a threat and never was a threat. He had no way of directly attacking the US.

"He could develope a nuclear wepaon and give it to terrorists to use here in America."

Okay Mr. president lets use a little common sense. What makes you think Saddam or any other country in that part of the world would be stupid enough to do such a thing?

Why would any country risk being turned into the 51st state just to kill a few Americans?

Now for China. Everyone wants us all to believe that China along with Russia are our friends. Fact is, nothing could be further from the truth. China is modernising its military with the aid of Russia.

China has built nearly 100 Russian SU-30 fighters under license from Sukhoi. Russia is also helping China modernise it's land and sea forces. And both have signed treaties stating that they would come to each others aid if one went to war with the US.

Yeah they're our friends alright. And China is still gearing up for an invasion of Taiwan.

But lets not worry about any of that. Lets worry about Iran and their nuclear program. So what if they are a sovereign nation with the right to build a nuclear power plant if they wish. And if they build nukes? Hey, as long as they dont launch one at us, so what?

Oh and never mind the draft thats coming next year.


As soon as the American People realize that this is a war with Islam the better. We need to use General Sheridans version of Total War, like he used against the Northern Cheyenne Indians. These Islamic terrorists are animals and need to be treated as such. America needs to nuke Mecca and let these Satanist know that their is only one god and his son Jesus Christ. Also the United States needs to cut all ties with the United Nations.

Wednesday, December 29

Linkin Park sets up site for Tsunami Relief

From VH1 News:

Awed, humbled and shocked by the destruction caused by the tsunamis that hammered southern Asia earlier this week, Linkin Park have teamed up with the American Red Cross to establish Music for Relief, a charity dedicated to providing aid to victims
of the tragedy.

Linkin Park have donated $100,000 to get things going, and they're hoping their fans and musical brethren will follow suit.

"As a band, we were in a position to help, but this needs to be a lot broader effort — both by our fans and by other musicians," Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson said. "If one of our fans can donate $10, then that's going to help, and the faster we can do it, the better.

"Here in the States, we might not think that we're directly affected by all this, but we can help. And the more we can do, and the quicker we can do it, the more lives we can save," Delson continued. "Obviously, there's been a horrendous, unparalleled loss of life. But a lot more people are going to die from being homeless and the problems with the water and diseases."

On Sunday morning, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake shook the floor of the Indian Ocean, stirring up massive tidal waves — called tsunamis — that smashed into coastlines from Indonesia to Somalia. In the aftermath, the death toll in southern Asia has climbed to more than 52,000, according to CBS News. The United Nations has estimated that at least a third of the dead were children.

Millions more remain homeless, and though they've survived the tidal waves, the worst may still lie ahead: Officials with the World Health Organization worry that diseases spread in the tsunamis' wake — cholera, malaria and other communicable diseases associated with a lack of clean water and sanitation — could claim even more lives.

"The whole thing is really a race against time," Delson said.

In June, Linkin Park played a massive outdoor concert at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand. Today, a few miles away, that city's international airport serves as a makeshift triage station, with victims of the disaster receiving medical treatment on the tarmac.

"We played what was the largest Thai concert in the past 10 years. It was an amazing show, and I carry with me the hospitality of the Thai people and the people of southern Asia," he said. "And having been there, I can just say that people there were so welcoming to us, and I really hope that through this effort we can help in some small way."

Aid agencies around the world, including the American Red Cross and Britain's Oxfam, are mounting what U.N. officials are already calling largest emergency relief effort in history. Hundreds of tons of food, medicine and blankets are arriving daily in hard-hit countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia, and nations like the U.S., Japan and Australia have already pledged more than $40 million in aid. But more help is desperately needed; the U.N. has said that the disaster caused "many billions of dollars" of damage and may be the costliest ever.

"We don't have a specific monetary goal right now," Delson said. "But we hope that anyone and everyone who can help will. We hope people will contribute what they can, because we can really save lives."

Donations can be made via MusicForRelief.org, which goes live Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, or via the American Red Cross' Web site, RedCross.org.

Other organizations assisting in the relief effort include:
American Friends Service Committee
www.afsc.org
(888) 588-2372


Direct Relief International
www.directrelief.org
(805) 964-4767


Doctors Without Borders
www.doctorswithoutborders.org
(877)-REFUGEE

Another View: Michael Scheurer on Imperial Hubris

Book Excerpt: 'Imperial Hubris'


Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism


NPR.org, June 24, 2004 · The following is an excerpt from Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror by Anonymous, an active senior CIA officer -- and former head of the agency's Osama bin Laden unit.

Introduction: 'Hubris Followed by Defeat'

A confident and care free republic -- the city on the hill, whose people have always believed that they are immune from history's harms -- now has to confront not only an unending imperial destiny but also a remote possibility that seems to haunt the history of empire: hubris followed by defeat.
--Michael Ignatieff, 2003.

As I complete this book, U.S., British, and other coalition forces are trying to govern apparently ungovernable postwar states in Afghanistan and Iraq while simultaneously fighting growing Islamist insurgencies in each -- a state of affairs our leaders call victory. In conducting these activities, and the conventional military campaigns preceding them, U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden's only indispensable ally.

As usual, U.S. leaders are oblivious to this fact and to the dire threat America faces from bin Laden and have followed policies that are making the United States incrementally less secure. They refuse, as Nicholas Kristof brilliantly wrote in the New York Times, to learn the Trojan War's lesson, namely: "[to avoid] the intoxicating pride and overweening ignorance that sometimes clouds the minds of the strong... [and] the paramount need to listen to skeptical views." Instead of facing reality, hubris-soaked U.S. leaders, elites, and media, locked behind an impenetrable wall of political correctness and moral cowardice, act as naive and arrogant cheerleaders for the universal applicability of Western values and feckless overseas military operations omnipotently entitled Resolute Strike, Enduring Freedom, Winter Resolve, Carpathian Strike, Infinite Justice, Valiant Strike, and Vigilant Guardian. While al Qaeda-led, anti-U.S. hatred grows among Muslims, U.S. leaders boast of being able to create democracy anywhere they choose, ignoring history and, as Stanley Kurtz reminded them in Policy Review, failing to regard Hobbes's warning that nothing is more disruptive to peace within a state of nature than vainglory.... If the world is a state of nature on a grand scale, than surely a foreign policy governed by a 'vainglorious' missionizing spirit rather than a calculation of national (and civilizational) interest promises dangerous war and strife.

I believe the war in Afghanistan was necessary, but is being lost because of our hubris. Those who failed to bring peace to Afghanistan after 1992 are now repeating their failure by scripting government affairs and constitution-making in Kabul to portray the birth of Western-style democracy, religious tolerance, and women's rights -- all anathema to Afghan political and tribal culture and none of which has more than a small, unarmed constituency. We are succeeding only in fooling ourselves. Certain the Afghans want to be like us, and abstaining from effective military action against growing numbers of anti-U.S. insurgents, we have allowed the Taliban and al Qaeda to regroup and refit. They are now waging an insurgency that gradually will increase in intensity, lethality, and popular support, and ultimately force Washington to massively escalate its military presence or evacuate. In reality, neither we nor our Karzai-led surrogates have built anything political or economic that will long outlast the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. Due to our hubris, what we today identify and promote as a nascent Afghan democracy is a self-made illusion on life-support; it is a Western-imposed regime that will be swept away if America and its allies stop propping it up with their bayonets.

On Iraq, I must candidly say that I abhor aggressive wars like the one we waged there; it is out of character for America in terms of our history, sense of morality, and basic decency. This is not to argue that preemption is unneeded against immediate threats. Never in our history was preemptive action more needed than in the past decade against the lethal, imminent threat of bin Laden, al Qaeda, and their allies. But the U.S. invasion of Iraq was not preemption; it was -- like our war on Mexico in 1846 -- an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantages. "Disclaimers issued by the White House notwithstanding, this war has not been thrust upon us. We have chosen it," Boston University's Andrew J. Bacevich wrote in the Los Angeles Times. "The United States no longer views force as something to be used as a last resort. There is a word for this. It's called militarism."

My objective is not to argue the need or morality of the war against Iraq; it is too late for that. That die has been cast, in part because we saw Iraq through lenses tinted by hubris, not reality. My point is, rather, that in terms of America's national security interests -- using the old-fashioned and too-much-ignored definition of national interests as matters of life and death -- we simply chose the wrong time to wage the Iraq war. Our choice of timing, moreover, shows an abject, even willful failure to recognize the ideological power, lethality, and growth potential of the threat personified by Osama bin Laden, as well as the impetus that threat has been given by the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Muslim Iraq. I tend to think that in the face of an insurgency that was accelerating in Afghanistan in early 2003, we would have been well guided on Iraq by Mr. Lincoln's spring 1861 advice to his secretary of state, William Henry Seward. When Secretary Seward proposed starting a war against Britain and France as a means to unite North and South against a common enemy, Mr. Lincoln wisely said, "Mr. Seward, one war at a time." And because I am loath to believe -- with a few exceptions -- that America's current leaders are dunces, or that I am smarter than they, I can only conclude that for some reason they are unwilling or unable to take bin Laden's measure accurately. Believing that I have some hold on what bin Laden is about, I am herein taking a second shot -- the first was in a book called -- at explaining the dangers our country faces from the forces led and inspired by this truly remarkable man, as well as from the remarkable ineffectiveness of the war America is waging against them.

My thesis is like the one that shaped Through Our Enemies' Eyes, namely, that ideas are the main drivers of human history and, in the words of Perry Miller, the American historian of Puritanism, are "coherent and powerful imperatives to human behavior." In short, my thesis is that the threat Osama bin Laden poses lies in the coherence and consistency of his ideas, their precise articulation, and the acts of war he takes to implement them. That threat is sharpened by the fact that bin Laden's ideas are grounded in and powered by the tenets of Islam, divine guidelines that are completely familiar to most of the world's billion-plus Muslims and lived by them on a daily basis. The commonality of religious ideas and the lifestyle they shape, I would argue, equip bin Laden and his coreligionists with a shared mechanism for perceiving and reacting to world events. "Islam is not only a matter of faith and practice," Professor Bernard Lewis has explained, "it is also an identity and a loyalty -- for many an identity and loyalty that transcends all others." Most important, for this book, the way in which bin Laden perceives the intent of U.S. policies and actions appears to be shared by much of the Islamic world, whether or not the same percentage of Muslims support bin Laden's martial response to those perceived U.S. intentions. "Arabs may deplore this [bin Laden's] violence, but few will not feel some pull of emotions," British journalist Robert Fisk noted in late 2002. "Amid Israel's brutality toward Palestinians and America's threats toward Iraq, at least one Arab is prepared to hit back."

In the context of the ideas bin Laden shares with his brethren, the military actions of al Qaeda and its allies are acts of war, not terrorism; they are part of a defensive jihad sanctioned by the revealed word of God, as contained in the Koran, and the sayings and traditions of the Prophet Mohammed, the Sunnah. These attacks are meant to advance bin Laden's clear, focused, limited, and widely popular foreign policy goals: the end of U.S. aid to Israel and the ultimate elimination of that state; the removal of U.S. and Western forces from the Arabian Peninsula; the removal of U.S. and Western military forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands; the end of U.S. support for the oppression of Muslims by Russia, China, and India; the end of U.S. protection for repressive, apostate Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, et cetera; and the conservation of the Muslim world's energy resources and their sale at higher prices. To secure these goals, bin Laden will make stronger attacks in the United States -- complemented elsewhere by attacks by al Qaeda and other Islamist groups allied with or unconnected to it -- to try to destroy America's resolve to maintain the policies that maintain Israel, apostate Muslim rulers, infidel garrisons in the Prophet's birthplace, and low oil prices for U.S. consumers. Bin Laden is out to drastically alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world, not necessarily to destroy America, much less its freedoms and liberties. He is a practical warrior, not an apocalyptic terrorist in search of Armageddon. Should U.S. policies not change, the war between America and the Islamists will go on for the foreseeable future. No one can predict how much damage will be caused by America's blind adherence to failed and counterproductive policies, or by the lack of moral courage now visible in the thirty-year-plus failure of U.S. politicians to review Middle East policy and move America to energy self-sufficiency and alternative fuels.

John Gibson on Hating America : The New Sport

From Publishers Weekly
Anti-American backlash over the invasion of Iraq gets a rejoinder in this rancorous manifesto. Fox News Channel pundit Gibson takes on a wide array of targets in "the great pageant of Hating America," including Arabs (many of whom have "mindless hatred" for the U.S.), Germans (who find a "pure, addictive pleasure" in anti-Americanism), the British (whom, he suggests, hate themselves for not hating Americans enough) and, of course, the French (who live in Chirac’s "anti-American nation"). Gibson does unearth a lot of America-hating, from an Egyptian columnist’s likening of Americans to cannibals, to bizarre German 9/11 conspiracy theories, to British novelist Margaret Drabble’s confession that "I loathe America."

But his main charge, leveled through a rehash of UN wranglings during the run-up to the war in Iraq, is simply that other countries didn’t understand our feelings after 9/11 and didn’t support the American invasion. By lumping this reluctance under the rubric of hatred, Gibson reduces serious policy differences to emotional animus, mostly motivated either by the fear and envy the rest of the globe-including the "soft-life Euro-paradise"-feels towards America’s "hard power," or by the sort of irrational tribal antagonisms characteristic of the sports world. This rhetorical strategy is ironic, given Gibson’s own emotional appeal to the ruins of Ground Zero to argue that "America should not be required to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt" when it goes after threats like Saddam Hussein. Gibson’s truculent tone ("The rest of the world can go to hell. It wasn’t attacked. We were. And we’ll judge who plotted against us and who is plotting still") will alienate readers who aren’t already predisposed to his views, and might be perceived as another fine example of American belligerence.

Product Description:

John Gibson is one of the Fox News Channel's most outspoken personalities. Now, as the aftershocks of the war in Iraq reverberate around the world, Gibson exposes the outrageous tenor of anti-American sentiment filling newsprint and airwaves beyond our borders and how disagreements over policy have mushroomed into poisonous hatred.

"I loathe America . . . and what it has done to Iraq and the rest of the helpless world."—Margaret Drabble, British novelist

From the "Arab street" to the halls of even the most historically friendly foreign governments, extreme anti-Americanism has grown disturbingly pervasive throughout the world since the shell-shocking moment of 9/11. Over the year that followed, Gibson writes, "I began to watch the overseas press with a morbid fascination punctuated by bursts of outrage. The things that were being said about America and Americans were marked by an off-the-charts level of venom, a scandalous parade of mistaken assumptions, an endless font of suspicion, mistrust, and the promulgation of outright, willful lies. The viciousness of commentary on America was breathtaking."

"Damn Americans. Hate those bastards." --Carolyn Parrish, Canadian parliament member

And, as Gibson traces, the hate speech has gone well beyond the usual suspects in the Middle East, infecting our erstwhile allies in Europe, Asia, and even Canada. British Prime Minister Tony Blair complained that "some of the rhetoric I hear used about America is more savage than some of the rhetoric I hear about Saddam and the Iraqi regime." Presumptuous Belgian officials attempted to bring American officials up on war-crimes charges. And special hatred was reserved for President George W. Bush, whom one Australian newspaper dismissed as "the village idiot."

As America defends its security in the ongoing war on terror, Gibson argues, we must be prepared to face this growing tide of resentment abroad, which will only result in serious consequences for the haters themselves. For the anti-Americans, he argues, would "like us to forget that those who hate us may eventually try to kill us -- because they now know that we will never allow that to happen without exacting a price on those who would attempt it."

Merry Christmas: What happened in Ohio (and to America)?

And lo, came the season of good spirits and good will toward your fellow man. The spirit of giving and brotherhood.

You know what I would like to have for Christmas?

I'd like to see some justice and integrity from those in whom we trust. I'd like to see companies like Pfiser show the the same type of good character that Merck has already shown by voluntarily pulling Celebrex off the market in order to protect the health of their customers. It seems to me this would make the Bush Administration very happy, as they seem quite big on volunteerism.

While Governer of Texas, Bush made compliance with State environmental policies voluntary. As a result only one company in Texas is known to have actually complied with those policies.
A similar approach, implemented by Bush's original EPA director Christine Todd Whitman has left significant amounts of agent orange contaminition in her own home state of New Jersey, putting the nearby residents of the town of Edison at risk.

The American FDA did indeed find and note contamination problems with the creation of the 2004 flu vaccine. Yet, they choose to ask that company to volantarily resolve the problem. They didn't. It took English authorities to do something to protect the public and the result was a vaccination crisis.

The Bush approach is an idealist one I think. It seems to feel that governmental oversight inherently dimishes the natural tendencies for individuals and companies to do the right thing on their own. Making the compliance with the EPA, FDA, SEC and other agencies volantary is a great deal like taking the speed limit in every city and making it - volantary. You wouldn't actually have to follow the speed limit anymore if you didn't feel like it. Wanna drive 115 mph on the sidewalk? Well, we wouldn't like it - but we'll only ask you to stop nicely.

And if you don't - we'll just say "Stop" again, real politely.

Wouldn't that be a cool world to live in? A world of true and absolute freedom. Freedom from surveilance, freedom from responsibility - freedom from consequence. Everyone would essentially be on their own recognizance, and you'd just have to trust that they'll all do the right thing all the time. And honestly, I think most people would do just that. Most people would not suddenly become wild careless maniacs. Most people wouldn't decide to do donuts in the crosswalk of the neighborhood elementary school. Most people are decent.

But some aren't. Some people are likely to get hurt. Not everyone. Just some. Probably only a very few. Maybe only one.

What I'd like to see for Christmas is people at all levels of our society, private individuals, corporate heads, regulators and police all rally behind the idea that one unneccesary death or injury is too many.

But I'm not expecting that to happen, because most people and most corporations, are essentially out for themselves! Their motivation is self-gratification, not the good and general welfare of the people. Sometimes that self-gratification can be effectively linked to the welfare of others when the relationship of trust between customer and client - between giver and receiver - is maintained. That trust is best maintained with honesty; with truth and the character to face the consequences when you make an honest mistake. Merck showed this kind of character when they decided to pull Vioxx off the market, however the result is that their stock price has plummetted and they are very likely of being taken over by other pharmacutical companies - such as Pfiser. So the good-guy company gets crushed, while the company that stonewalls continues on.

That's the way the market truly works. Economic Darwinism is a bitch.

And in Bush's America that is particularly dangerous, because besides the idea of getting government off of the back of those poor overburdened polluters and incompetant uncaring corporations - is the idea that the people have no right to know about these activities. They seem to feel that bad corporations will be taken care of by the market - yet they consistently fight tooth and nail to prevent the press or whistleblowers from being able to inform the market and allow people to make the choices that would allow their theory of market darwinism to function. You have no further than to look at the way they've handled the situations with Valerie Plame and her husband former Ambassador Joe Wilson, or former Treasury Secratary John O'Neal, or Richard Clarke to see how they handle those who would tell the public the truth.

50,000 people dead, and counting in Indonesia as a result of the Tsunami and the Bush Administration is sending them less money than he's spending on his inaguration balls, in fact he was so greatly moved by this tragedy that he decided to remain on vacation. Not to worry, Bush will soon deflect people from this issue with another wonderful slight-of-hand political maneuver. He's done it so many times, I doubt this will even cause him to blink.

Despite this, just once, I'd like to see those people who support the Republican party wake up. I'd like to see them stop putting the power of the party ahead of the priorities of the nation and the world. One time isn't too much to ask, but time and time again, they fail.

Whether you support Democrats or Republicans - whether you wholeheartedly believe that George W. Bush was the right choice for America, and that he won both the 2000 and 2004 elections "fair and square" - I think you'd have to feel that all the people have to have confidence in those elections or else the fabric of our democracy is fractured, just as much as the Ukraine has been recently. I've heard many on the right loudly call for new elections in the wake of problems in the Ukrainian election - but where are those voices when it comes to problems in Ohio or problems in Florida?

What I want for Christmas is the truth. Did Kerry legitimatly lose? Maybe. Probably, I think. But were their many many irregularities which are grossly troubling and should make any American concerned? Definately.

Even if you choose to ignore the problems in Guantanemo and Abu Ghraib or the failure to get basic services re-established and rebuilt in Iraq, the irrelevent and ineffectiveness of the FDA, SEC, EPA and Superfund. If people can only pick one thing - I think they need to focus on the privatization of the election.

Most companies and individuals involved in the election process probably did the right thing. I honestly believe that. But also - there was absolutely no speed limit in effect. No legitimate oversight. No responsibilty. No consequences. None what-so-ever.

So now, the recount in Ohio has been done and Kerry gained about 300 votes, pathetically fewer than was neccesary to change the results. So what were the Repubs so afraid of? Voting has never been a partisan issue before. Counting votes accurately never has been. It is now.

What I want is for those on the right - to finally stop coming up with excuses and evasians and finally - volantarily - do the right thing, and begin to seek the truth. All American's should be rallying around this issue - because if the right can steal and election - so can the left.

But I'm not holding my breath, because I strongly suspect the truth - and reality - is not something they worship. Their one and only true God, is the Republican Party.

All Hail - Republi-God!

Mark Halvorson and Kirk Lund:
We may never know what happened in the Ohio vote
Mark Halvorson and Kirk Lund
December 29, 2004 HALVORSON122

The right to vote and to have each vote count is the cornerstone of democracy, but deep cracks are showing in this cornerstone.

Disturbing reports of voting irregularities in Ohio recently led nine of us from Minnesota to monitor the recount of its presidential election. The recount was not only to verify the outcome of the Ohio vote but also to ensure accountability in a flawed system.

Problems encountered by tens of thousands of Ohio voters included: waits as long as seven hours at polling places; shortages of poll workers and voting machines; electronic voting machines that malfunctioned; election-counting discrepencies; voters being directed to the wrong polling place, and uneven policies governing the use of provisional ballots.

As observers, we encountered irregularities and obstacles in the recount process. In Perry County, we inspected the voter logbooks, which showed 100 people voting in one precinct without any signatures, leaving no way to verify who actually voted. A lawsuit asking the courts to overturn the results of the Perry County auditor's race alleges that the number of votes exceeded the number of people who signed the voting books.

Under Ohio law, each county must randomly choose a precinct to recount by hand and by machine. If the two counts do not match, officials must conduct a countywide recount by hand. Most county Boards of Elections, however, chose to preselect the sample precinct, a violation of the law. Some counties refused to proceed with a full hand recount when the hand and machine tallies failed to match.

In two of the three counties we observed, technicians from Diebold and Triad, manufacturers of voting machines and vote-counting software, were present during the entire recount. The Diebold technician in Hardin County was actively involved in giving instructions to the observers. Further, he arrived the day before the recount to prepare the machines and data disks that contain the election results.

At an Ohio hearing convened by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., an affidavit was filed on behalf of Sherole Eaton, an election worker in Hocking County, describing how an employee of Triad may have tampered with the vote tabulator when he dismantled it three days before the Dec. 13 recount. In her affidavit, she states the technician told her "how to post a 'cheat sheet' on the wall so the ... count would come out perfect and we wouldn't have to do a full hand recount of the county."

Conyers has asked the FBI to investigate. Attorneys for John Kerry filed two motions on Monday to preserve the evidence in this case and to take the deposition of the Triad technician.

On Dec. 16 we attended a Franklin County Board of Elections public hearing in Columbus. Citizens expressed their anger and outrage at having to wait up to seven hours to vote. One woman referred to the long lines as a "new poll tax." The Election Protection Coalition reported that of the 464 complaints about long lines in Ohio, 400 came from Columbus and Cleveland, where a large proportion of the state's Democratic voters live.

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who cochaired the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio, has come under heavy criticism for his handling of the election and the recount. He refused to respond to questions by several members of Congress.

Conyers charged in a subsequent letter that Blackwell's refusal to answer questions is "part of a pattern of decisions that have worked to obstruct and stonewall a search for the truth about voting irregularities."

Blackwell is also seeking a protective order to keep him from being interviewed as part of a court challenge to the Ohio election.

We will never have a clear picture of Ohio's election results because of the lack of a statewide manual recount, lack of a voter-verified paper trail for many of the state's voters who used electronic voting machines, questions of possible machine tampering, and untold numbers of discouraged voters deterred by long lines. We call on Sen. Mark Dayton to join Rep. Maxine

Waters and other members of Congress to stop the approval of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6 until there is a full investigation into what really happened in Ohio.

Mark Halvorson is a social worker and cofounder of Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections - Minnesota, a grass-roots group that advocates for election integrity. Kirk Lund is an attorney.

Sunday, December 26

Three Wise Men

Three Wise Men
Posted by James Wolcott (Columnist for Vanity Fair)

Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today:

"Support Our Troops" is a wonderful patriotic slogan. But the best way to support troops thrust by unwise commanders in chief into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later. That should be our New Year's resolution.

Jack Beatty, journalist, biographer, and Atlantic Monthly senior editor:

We have made a disaster in Iraq. We cannot escape from all of its consequences. But the human consequences of staying—the Iraqi civilians we will kill, the young American men and women alive this minute who will die or be maimed in body or mind—are worse than the political consequences of withdrawing. In any case, the political consequences are notional, as weighed against the certainty of death, suffering, and grief. In our own eyes, our prestige diminished after we withdrew from Vietnam, but our international position was not weakened. Asked for the hundredth time why we were in Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson, according to Arthur Goldberg, his U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, "unzipped his fly, drew out his substantial organ, and declared, 'This is why!'" In Iraq as in Vietnam, at risk is not America's prestige but the President's. No one should have to die to save George W. Bush's face.

Father Andrew Greeley, columnist and novelist:

The guilty people are not only the Vulcans [in the Bush administration] but those Americans who in the November election endorsed the war.

They are also responsible for the Iraqi deaths, especially the men who join the police or the army because they need the money to support their families -- their jobs eaten up in the maw of the American ''liberation.'' Iraqi deaths don't trouble many Americans. Their attitude is not unlike the e-mail writer who said he rejoices every time a Muslim kills another Muslim. ''Let Allah sort them out.''

This time of the year we celebrate ''peace on Earth to men of good will.'' Americans must face the fact that they can no longer claim to be men and women of good will, not as long as they support an unnecessary, foolish, ill-conceived, badly executed and, finally, unwinnable war.