Saturday, June 10, 2006


"First" of the Day

Families of some of the British troops serving in Iraq are launching a campaign to bring them home.

It is the first time such a call has been made by families of troops still on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

—BBC News, "Troop families make anti-war call"

Members of the Military Families Against the War group are addressing an anti-war rally in London on Saturday.



Moral Dilemma of the Day

Of the members of the British Infantry and Royal Artillery regiments now offered £1,300 [$2400] to get their friends to join—

What happens if a young boy gets his friend to sign up to go to Iraq and he gets killed. He will have to live with that for the rest of his life. —Rose Gentle, mother of Gordon, killed at 19 in Iraq, as quoted by Ben Russell

The British, like the Americans, are having recruiting shortfalls—

The Army and the Royal Artillery were well below their targets for new recruits last year. There were 2,110 new infantry recruits last year, well below the target of 2,830. The Artillery attracted 580 recruits, despite a target to sign 800 new soldiers.

Latest figures show the Army remains below strength, despite a steady reduction in the planned size of the forces in recent years. There were 88,450 in the Army's other ranks, nearly 2,000 down on full strength, although the officer corps was up on its planned numbers.

So last year they offered a bounty for recruits, and now they're going to up it—

Bounties worth £650 [$1200] were introduced last autumn to combat a "recruiting shortfall" the Ministry of Defence said. The scheme produced 110 recruits, so senior officers decided to rerun the scheme this summer, starting this month, doubling the bounty to £1,300 for each recruit who passes basic training.

There are few events that could horrify a young man or woman more than to feel responsible for the death of a friend. If they really need the money, they might try recruiting their worst enemies.


Thursday, June 08, 2006


Quote of the Day

I would not have imagined ... that Americans could be routinely torturing helpless captives in the name of the American people and to continue it day after day—it's going on right now—without an ongoing outrage and a demand that it stop. —Al Gore in an interview last week with Terry Gross of "Fresh Air"



Torture is always simply appalling

Yesterday Elendil left a comment inviting Simply Appalling to join her blogroll in support of Torture Awareness Month. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental organizations have selected this month to heighten awareness of torture. The month of June was chosen in support of June 26, the "International Day in Support of Survivors and Victims of Torture," designated by the United Nations.

I'm pleased to add this blog to the list of Bloggers Against Torture. I've placed the list of participating blogs just after the Archives. Give them a visit, and if you are a blogger, please lend your support by joining.

Meanwhile, I've searched through earlier posts related to torture. Here's the short list. I've re-read them all and stand by them—

Evidence from torture OK, says the government (12/2/04)
Early warning on Guantánamo torture from the FBI (12/6/04)
Uncivil aviation (12/28/04)
Dirty propaganda in a "Dirty War" (2/24/05)
Why are we torturing people? (4/4/05)
U.S. to U.N.: Visit Guantánamo but don't touch (4/7/05)
Language matters (5/26/05)
Sunday's meditation on Tuesday: Religion, torture and law (8/9/05)
The emperor's fig leaves (12/16/05)
Assisting the CIA in torture? Prove it! (2/27/06)
Catch-22 of the Day (3/4/06)
While waiting for the civil war ... (3/6/06)
Press suppression in Spain (3/13/06)
Al Gore: "I would not have imagined ...." (6/1/06)


Wednesday, June 07, 2006


The Washington Post: Pravda on the Potomac

There has always been a level of madness in the media, as there must be in any insane society. But if it's the truth you're after, you could get better information from a bag lady pushing a shopping cart.

Here's today's Washington Post account of the report [pdf] prepared for the Council of Europe (CoE), the official European human rights organization. It was released yesterday and threatens to stir up a stink.1 Craig Whitlock writes

A European investigator concluded Wednesday that there are "serious indications" that the CIA operated secret prisons for suspected al-Qaeda leaders in Poland and Romania as part of a clandestine "spider's web" to catch, transfer and hold terrorism suspects around the world.

The Post has not published the names of the East European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior U.S. officials, including a direct appeal from President Bush.

Oh, but they just did publish the names, didn't they?

It was a story by the Washington Post in November 2005 that led to the CoE investigation, and the names "Poland" and "Romania" surfaced in other news accounts almost immediately. So you might argue, on the Post's behalf, that since the names of the countries have been published elsewhere it no longer matters.

But that doesn't seem to be the Post's position. As best I can infer, by their logic they still have not published the names of the offending countries under their own attribution nor do they lend the CoE report the corroboration of their own research nor do they deny the CoE report. They're just letting you know what the report said. Period.

And on a related matter—

They [the Bush administration] argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation.

Isn't it the function of a free press to inform the public of—and thereby possibly disrupt—the illegal, unethical and immoral activities of the government? And if that is not the function of a free press, why the Constitutional protection? Indeed, why do we need a "free" press?

Pravda on the Potomac. Faithful to the Party till the end.

Related post
Assisting the CIA in torture? Prove it! (2/27/06)



1The recent spate of "terrorist" arrests—the round-up of a group in Canada linked to the U.S. and multiple arrests in Britain—has a disturbing arbitrariness as to the timing. It appears almost as if in light of hearings on the counter-terrorism budget in Canada as well as the release of the CoE report, terrorist arrests that fill the front pages could not come at a more propitious moment. [back]

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Quip of the Day

If you're a gay who likes to burn flags, it's going to be a long year. —Scott Reed, Bob Dole's 1996 campaign manager, as quoted by columnist E.J. Dionne



Tea-leaf reading for Busby-Bilbray race in California (updated)

Since today is 6-6-6 I thought I'd dust off my well-worn copy of Black Arts for the 21st Century to see if I could determine who is going to win today's special election in California's 50th District (San Diego county) for the seat of Republican crook "Duke" Cunningham.

This is a hugely Republican district in terms of voter registration: 44% Republican vs. 29% Democratic, for a 14% Republican advantage at the starting gate. But despite that, Francine Busby has been able to stay even in the polls with Republican Brian Bilbray. Yet according to political scientist Gary Jacobson, "since 1966, Democratic takeovers of House seats in California have happened only in districts where the Republican registration advantage was 3.7 percentage points or lower."

If past were truly prologue, we could call this one for the Republicans and go to lunch. But with the Duke Cunningham scandal and the George Bush debacle, there is some question whether Republican voters want to be seen in public. After all, they're the ones who are ultimately responsible.

From the polls there's very little to go on. The latest poll was conducted on June 2 by SurveyUSA, and (as is frequently the case) they would have been better off hiring me to read my tea leaves. The greatest fault of the poll is the size of the sample: only 448 "likely voters," which leaves them with a margin of error of ±4.7%. Since their results show Bilbray the Republican winning by 47% over Busby the Democrat with 45% (there's a third-party candidate picking up the difference), all we really know are the political fantasies of the 448 people sampled.

That said, there are some interesting findings. The biggest differentiating factors other than political party and ideology (Conservative, Moderate, Liberal) are age and education: the 18-34 crowd is going for the Democrat by 55% while the over-65 group wants the Republican by 52%. By education there's a direct relationship between level of education and level of support for the Democrat. Put another way, the less you know the more likely you are to vote Republican.

But where the poll is really interesting is in the racial breakdown. Here we have Whites going Republican 44%, Democrat 42%; Blacks going Republican 55% to Democrat 38%; Hispanics going Republican 53% to 45% Democrat. Only the Asians go for the Democrat 52% to 34%. Here's where the small sample size is showing its effect.

The Republican is running an anti-immigrant campaign. Unless California is as strange as the right-wingers think, surely Hispanics aren't going anti-immigrant by a 10% margin and surely Blacks aren't going Republican by a 17% margin! You see, there were only 31 Hispanics and 13 Blacks sampled.

My tea leaves are telling me that there's a severe error in the racial sampling. The margin of error for each racial category was not calculated, but for such small samples it would be enormous.

So I'm going to call this race for the Democrat. Here's why:

  1. Contrary to the poll, Blacks and Hispanics are going to vote Democratic by a large margin as will the Asians. I just hope for a huge minority turn-out.
  2. This is a strange ballot. Voters are not only voting to fill Cunningham's seat until November, they're also voting in a primary to select the candidates for the November regular election, which includes Republican Bilbray. If that doesn't confuse 'em I don't know what will. Since the less educated support Bilbray, many of them may not be able to negotiate the ballot—a plus for Busby.
  3. The Democrats are motivated. Busby had 300 volunteers and was asking for 100 more. I have no doubt she got them.

Now let's just hope that when all's said and done we'll actually know the outcome. This bit in the San Diego Union-Tribune wasn't comforting—

Problems have also surfaced in San Diego County's South Bay where more than 1,000 Chula Vista voters from one precinct received an incomplete and potentially confusing address for their polling place. Those voters were instructed to vote at Olivewood Elementary School at 2505 F Ave. The address is in National City, not Chula Vista as the notice read.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters will post a map at the precinct's former polling location in the Chula Vista Mobile Home Park, directing voters to the new polling place.

Say it isn't so!

6/7/06 — 6:00 am

With 90% of the vote counted, Republican Bilbray was winning 49.49% to Busby's 45.24%.


Monday, June 05, 2006


If you're dark or Muslim, you can be shot in the UK

After British police murdered Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in a London tube (subway) station and made a clumsy attempt to cover it up, you may have thought that the government's shoot-to-kill policy would come to a quick end. But that would suppose intelligence and good will on the part of the government.

Now the police have done it again, shooting a postman and terrorizing a household. The raid resembled an American-style Iraqi home invasion. But this time they only shot to maim the victim and, unlike the murder of Menezes, at least they managed to shoot a Muslim. I expect they'll claim they're improving.

How do I know they made a mistake? Because if they had found any evidence of a "terror plot," they would have been trumpeting it from here to Siam.

The truth is, I wrote the above yesterday. Today I see they're beginning to eke out an admission of a mistake. The Guardian reports

Counter-terrorism officials conceded yesterday that lethal chemical devices they feared had been stored at an east London house raided on Friday may never have existed.

Confidence among officials appeared to be waning as searches at the address continued to yield no evidence of a plot for an attack with cyanide or other chemicals. A man was shot during the raid, adding to pressure on the authorities for answers about the accuracy of the intelligence that led them to send 250 officers to storm the man's family home at dawn.

That a country can claim that it has the right to murder its own citizens in the name of "security" and that the people of a "democratic" country would tolerate such a claim shows what a sham British democracy really is. If this had occurred in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a U.S. State Department spokesperson would be hopping from one foot to another denouncing "tyranny." No more.

"The public may have to get used to this sort of incident, with the police having to be safe rather than sorry."

5:00 pm

Ben Russell of the Independent offers this tidbit—

On Friday, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police's Anti-Terrorist Branch, had said the intelligence that led to Friday's raid was "very specific". There were suggestions yesterday that the intelligence indicating that a chemical device was being prepared may have come from America.

Good God! If they're getting their information from the American intelligence agencies, the whole population's at risk. Have they already forgotten the WMD in Iraq? That information was very specific also—Rumsfeld said he knew precisely where the weapons were located.

Related posts
Why did the London police shoot a bomber suspect? (7/22/05)
A law professor comments on the murder by London police (7/26/05)
Murder now legal in Britain for officers of the Crown (11/27/05)


Sunday, June 04, 2006


Religious Conversions of the Day

Speaking of the Swedes—

A hundred years ago we were Christians. Today we are file sharers. —Henrik Ponten, lawyer for Antipiratbyran, "a Swedish antipiracy organization financed by the movie and games industries," as reported by Ivar Ekman

And speaking of conversions, there's a rumor going 'round that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been considering a conversion to Roman Catholicism.

Saturday's meeting between Blair and the Pope can only heighten the speculation. They were said to have discussed faith and terror, which seem connected somehow.

Blair's wife Cherie, a devout Roman Catholic herself, was let in at the end of the meeting. No word whether Blair kissed His Holiness' ring. But no matter what her husband was kissing Cherie must have been delighted to know that for once it wasn't George Bush's ass.

Related post
A slight shudder and a pulling-away (5/16/05)

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