Friday, January 26, 2007
Advice of the Day
We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!" —Molly Ivins
Ivins has just been admitted to a Texas hospital in her fight with breast cancer. An assistant says "she's very sick."
Canada rewards man considered a terrorist in the U.S.
Canada's Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is to announce today a $10 million settlement with Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was kidnapped by U.S. agents from a flight that had stopped over at New York's JFK Airport. (In the U.S. we now refer to kidnappings conducted by government officials as "extraordinary renditions.") Arar was subsequently flown to Syria to be tortured.
Harper will also apologize to Arar for the role the Royal Canadian Mounted Police played in passing false information to U.S. authorities. The Canadian Parliament has already issued an apology.
Italy has also been implicated in the case. It allowed the U.S. flight to stop over in Rome as it was conveying Arar to Syria. The European Union is urging Italy to issue an apology.
Canada's Globe and Mail editorialized—
Maher Arar's financial claim against the Canadian government for its role in his year of incarceration and torture in Syria is a unique case that merits a unique response. A just award will involve many millions of dollars, at a level unprecedented in Canada. This was far worse than the catastrophic failures of the legal system that have produced wrongful convictions in this country. It involved the total denial of due process to a Canadian citizen, and a form of punishment beyond anything remotely acceptable in our society.
What is beyond the "remotely acceptable" in Canada is more than acceptable in the U.S. Arar is still on the U.S. watch list despite protests from the Canadian government, which has taken a peek at U.S. evidence against Arar and found it wanting.
But Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insist that keeping Arar out of the U.S. is "appropriate." Of course, it is. There's no sense letting that man get near a courthouse.
Are you enjoying rule by secret fiat yet? So efficient!
Joke of the Day (8/12/05)
A bomb disguised as a box of pigeons exploded in a crowded Baghdad animal market Friday, killing at least 14 people and wounding dozens. —CBC
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Psychological Insight of the Day
We have a workplace that is motivationally toxic. Convenient access to inferior choices is decidedly inconvenient. —Psychologist Piers Steel as quoted in "Why Do Today What You Can Put Off Until Tomorrow," a report of a study on procrastination
I've been meaning to bring this to your attention but keep putting it off.
"Inferior choices?" If Steel only knew what I did instead!
Spain issues warrant for U.S. soldiers
Last week the Spanish National Court, a lower court, issued arrest warrants for 3 U.S. soldiers for the killing of Spanish TV cameraman Jose Couso at Baghdad's Hotel Palestine in 2003. The area of the hotel where journalists were staying was destroyed by a shell from an American tank, some say deliberately. According to Lisa Abend and Geoff Pingree,
Rafael Jiménez, secretary general of the Spanish branch of Reporters Without Borders, says that on the day US forces took the Baghdad airport, journalists on the scene reported that it wasn't an easy fight. "The Army wasn't going to let that kind of 'propaganda' continue," says Mr. Jiménez. "So the day after, they attacked Al Jazeera's office, and two days later they attacked the Hotel Palestine. It was a clear act to intimidate the press that wasn't embedded and that [therefore] couldn't be controlled."
The three named were Taras Protsyuk, a tank sergeant, Capt. Philip Wolford, who issued the order to fire, and Wolford's commanding officer, Col. Philip DeCamp.
Reporters Abend and Pingree write that the case is a test of the principle of "universal jurisdiction – which holds that some crimes are so grave as to warrant judicial intervention from any country." Spain has already upheld the principle in the prosecutions of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Guatemalan President Efraím Rios Montt but has not applied it to soldiers in wartime.
The Pentagon claims to have done an investigation of the incident and has determined that the soldiers were "acting appropriately."
The long and short of it is that the U.S. will certainly not extradite the soldiers to Spain. Nevertheless they may be tried in absentia for violations of Spanish or international law.
As for the soldiers, travel to any country that has an extradition agreement with Spain could lead to their arrest.
Press suppression in Spain (3/13/06)
Political Animal of the Day
In Isaiah Berlin's typology of leaders, Bush isn't merely a hedgehog who knows one thing rather than many things. He's a delusional hedgehog who knows one thing that isn't so. —Columnist Harold Meyerson in "Our Delusional Hedgehog"
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Invisible Hand of the Day
Israeli billionaire and media mogul Haim Saban is at the top of the list of donors to political campaigns in the US. Fox Network revealed over the weekend that Saban has donated approximately $13 million to various candidates. —Itamar Eichner in "Israeli billionaire Saban biggest donor to US politicians"
Saban may be shaping the American political landscape in other ways as well. Last year he bought Univision, the largest Spanish-language TV broadcaster in the U.S.
A war we can't afford to win
At lunch on Monday a friend, an accountant, remarked that the war in Iraq is a war we can't afford to win. I realized immediately the truth of this assessment. Unfortunately the point has not been made by anyone in the mainstream media and certainly not by our politicians, at least to my knowledge. Once stated, however, it becomes self-evident.
David Leonhardt in his column (in the NY Times' Business section naturally) comes as close to recognizing this truth as we may hope, yet still he shies away. After reviewing various assessments of the cost of the war he writes—
Whatever number you use for the war’s total cost, it will tower over costs that normally seem prohibitive.
Think about that phrase: "costs that normally seem prohibitive." Do these costs not seem prohibitive because they in fact are prohibitive? By tossing in the abverb "normally" Leonhardt seems to suggest that we have entered some alternate reality in which these prohibitive costs can be borne. Thus he disguises the truth and offers us a fantasy.
I don't mean to be overly critical of Leonhardt. He tries to show the enormity of the waste this war represents by suggesting ways in which the money might have been better spent. Using an estimate of $1.2 trillion (that's $1200 billion), which he considers a "conservative" estimate of the cost of the war to date, he offers—
For starters, $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign — a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children’s lives.
Combined, the cost of running those programs for a decade wouldn’t use up even half our money pot. So we could then turn to poverty and education, starting with universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child across the country. The city of New Orleans could also receive a huge increase in reconstruction funds.
The final big chunk of the money could go to national security. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that have not been put in place — better baggage and cargo screening, stronger measures against nuclear proliferation — could be enacted. Financing for the war in Afghanistan could be increased to beat back the Taliban’s recent gains, and a peacekeeping force could put a stop to the genocide in Darfur.
We frequently hear the punditocracy discussing whether the Congress will cut the funding for the war. The right-wingers like to suggest that such an act would be tantamount to withdrawing support for the troops and "losing" a presumably winnable war. But the funds for this war are not ultimately in the hands of Congress. As with everything else the American people have purchased of late, the funds have been borrowed from overseas.
It may turn out to be an irony of globalization, so ardently promoted by the Bush and Clinton administrations, that it will be the global investors who finally decide to stop throwing good money after bad and bring this terrible war to an end.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Understatement of the Day
Concerning the war in Iraq—
It was pretty clear when you started to look at our assumptions, many of them just weren't right. —"Senior administration official" as quoted by Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker
This smacks of the eloquence and insight of Condoleezza Rice. She has a way of breaking into a gabble when called upon to think that's just precious—and unmistakeable.