Saturday, January 27, 2007

Arar Revisited

The Sad, but True Significance of The Arar Case

There are a number of reasons that I post a fair bit on the case of Maher Arar. One is that as a Canadian, I sometimes get news that isn't reported in the States, or that is under-reported. As a Canadian, I sympathize with a fellow Canadian who has been so egregiously mistreated by the U.S. government, and I am deeply offended by the Administration's arrogant assumption that an American's rights are more significant than someone else's rights. But it goes WAY beyond that.

Up until now, my posts on Arar largely have been limited to reporting the facts. Consider this the consequent outpouring of rage. For a case timeline, read this synopsis by the CBC.

The Arar case is exemplary of the kind of treatment that has been experienced by at least dozens, perhaps hundreds, of others whose names we will never know. The only reason Maher Arar's name ever came to light is that the Canadian government knew from the outset that he was in American government hands when he was kidnapped by the FBI on September 26, 2002. That's right, kidnapped. To dignify what happened as an arrest would misrepresent the facts. Arar was never charged with any crime, never given access to a lawyer, never afforded any of the due process guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and its attendant Bill of Rights. I won't even use the CBC's weasel word 'detained.' He was kidnapped, and the officials responsible should be charged with that crime.

Without the due diligence exercised by the Canadian government to obtain his release, Maher Arar may never again have seen the light of day after having been kidnapped by persons in the employ of U.S. agencies acting under color of authority. And it is my considered belief that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people in situations not too much unlike that of Maher Arar were simply disposed of (killed) after extensive torture showed them to be innocent. Arar himself has said that this case's significance lies with those whose kidnap was not protested by their government, or whose government never knew they had been kidnapped. His experience is the mere tip of a very large and very ugly iceberg.

Let's look at the facts. The disclosure of photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison led to little more than the pitifully weak argument that these were isolated cases attributable to low-ranking individuals who were acting outside of sanctioned guidelines. Lynndie England and a few others were responsible. Hogwash!

Revelation followed revelation. Memos from Rumsfeld, signing statements from Bush, secret flights condemned by the EU. Always accompanied by this idiotic appeal for secrecy from the most secretive government America has ever known. Their message, "No, flat out, never: We. Do. Not. Torture! But, no you can't see the relevant documents because we don't want to give away our techniques to the enemy." Poppycock!

Then, when the truth was revealed beyond a doubt - the most damnable lie possible, "This is nothing new - everyone knew this all along (though we were denying it just last week)." Balderdash!

And as always, "If you oppose our abuses of power (which, by the way, aren't happening) you must want the terrorists to win." Bullshit!

Maher Arar was indisputably 'detained' (kidnapped), inarguably 'deported' (renditioned), and unquestionably 'questioned' (tortured) at the hands of U.S. officials or their surrogates with authorization from the administration. Alberto Gonzales is still perjuring himself to cover it up, more than four years after the initial crime. The facts strongly suggest the program of rendition to be widespread.

Steel yourself. What follows is the ineluctable logic that reveals the source of my rage. We are going into a torture scenario that will never be seen on cable television's 24, or in any other corporate media fiction. Where we are going is much more real than that, proven to be real by the experience of Maher Arar, Jose Padilla, and others. We are of necessity going into the mind of those who would torture a fellow human being, and exploring their reasoning, however repugnant that may be. You have been warned.

Here's the thing. You, the torturer, have had someone under your control for some time now. He or she has been waterboarded, beaten repeatedly, their genitals electrocuted, their fingers and toes broken, their teeth extracted one by one, whatever you could think of to extract the desired information about involvement in some heinous act of terrorism against the United States of America. Early on, you got this person to 'give up' friends and acquaintances as co-conspirators. They too were 'detained' and subjected to the same treatment.

But the thing is, none of it panned out. The friends and acquaintances came up with stories of conspiracies too, after sufficient 'persuasion', but no two stories ever matched up. After all the abuse that you, the torturer have inflicted, you must reluctantly conclude that the person is innocent. The ticking time bomb scenario was nothing but an overused dramatic device, a phantom threat with no more basis in reality than the chimera of WMDs that got us in this mess to begin with. As the infamous internet infidel Delos McKown once remarked, "The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike."

So what do you do now? Your victim knows intimately the techniques you used on him. It has been repeatedly stressed to you that allowing these techniques to become known will benefit the terrorists. Your orders must have come from high in the chain of command - black helicopters don't come from nowhere, after all. Any tale this person would bring to the outside world would be an immense embarrassment to the Administration, far more so than if he had been guilty. Should he be released you, the torturer could face trial for human rights violations at least, possibly war crimes. You can't just let him go.

So what DO you do now?

Cross-posted from Les Enragé
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Friday, January 26, 2007

Maher Arar Update

Item one: Canadian Government Admits Responsibility

This item from CBC news shows that Canada's government accepts responsibility for what happened to Maher Arar, and is trying to make amends.
"Ottawa has reached a $10-million settlement with Maher Arar over Canada's role in a U.S. decision to deport him to Syria, where he was jailed and tortured.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to make the settlement announcement on Friday afternoon, when he will also issue a formal apology to Arar on behalf of Canadians. Sources told the CBC the government will also pick up Arar's legal fees."
We have already reported on how Arar was cleared by a Canadian Commission of Inquiry in September, and how U.S. authorities still refuse to take Arar off a terrorist watchlist. Ice Station Tango has video of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales being questioned by Patrick Leahy on the subject of Arar. And I recently posted on how Gonzo's response was a lie.

Item Two: U.S. Authorities Continue to Act Irresponsibly
To recap from the information above;
- A Canadian Commission has found no credible evidence that Maher Arar has had any connection to terrorist organizations or plots.
- The U.S. still refuses to allow Arar into the U.S. -that includes travelling in a plane in U.S. airspace. The evidence they claim supports this policy does no such thing.

So where is the justification for this?
"U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins on Wednesday criticized Ottawa's efforts to have Maher Arar removed from a United States security watch list, saying the U.S. alone will decide who to let into the country.

Speaking in Edmonton after meeting with new Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, Wilkins warned Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to back off, because a U.S. review determined Arar should remain on the watch list.

'It's a little presumptuous for him [Day] to say who the United States can and cannot allow into our country,' Wilkins told reporters Wednesday.

The ambassador reiterated that the U.S. found its own reasons to keep Arar on the watch list.

Day said in a visit last week to Washington that he has seen the information and found nothing new to suggest Arar is a safety risk."
All this is just a continuation of the Bush administration's refusal to ever admit that they could ever make a mistake. Granted, with King Codpiece claiming to be in communication with THE ALMIGHTY, that would be a little problematic. Bush's delusions of grandeur (and for him, feelings of mere adequacy would be delusional) are approaching the level of theories of Papal infallibility.

To say nothing of the John Bolton-like arrogant bluster that the US continues to substitute for diplomacy.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bush's Credibility..

..File with: Tooth Fairy, Unicorn
Just prior to the Stoat of the Onion address, Keith Olbermann aired this review of Bush's past SOTU speeches, and the veracity of the statements made therein. Of course most prominent were the lies bringing the country into the war in Iraq, but there were also the repeated broken promises. We will catch Osama bin Laden, whatever it takes. We will provide the army with the troops and equipment they need. We will listen to the generals. This administration has been nothing more than an endless string of lies, broken promises, and failures.
Review of Past SOTU statements

As KO concludes, the only goal truly accomplished by BushCo™ is the Orwellian goal of perpetual war against an implacable and undefeatable enemy. Heckuva job, King Codpiece.

There are broken promises Olbermann omits: No child will be left behind, but no funding will be provided. We will strive towards energy independence, but no funding will be provided for that either. I'm sure I missed some too. But the biggest broken promise of all came in January, 2001; the promise Bush made on assuming office. When he swore to uphold the constitution and the laws of the United States of America.

Cross-posted from Les Enragé
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

Watergate Burglary Planner, Dead at 88

E. Howard Hunt, the CIA officer who planned the Watergate breakdown, has died at the age of 88. He served a mere 33 months for his act of treason against the principles of democracy. Even so he was bitter that he should have been punished at all when his boss, Richard Nixon, got off scot free.

From BBC News:
"From 1949 to 1970 he worked for the CIA, and was involved in the operation that overthrew Jacobo Arbenz as Guatemala's president in 1954, and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961."
Like the CIA-backed coup which deposed Salvador Allende in Chile during the Nixon presidency, this was a war crime - for which Hunt got off scot free. Arbenz and Allende were BTW both popular, elected leaders. Their hand-picked successors were bloodthirsty dictators - preferred by the GOP leadership for their friendly relations with US business interests, and their brutal repression of workers' rights. So much for promoting democracy outside the US.

Probably the most controversial story associated with Hunt is the theory that Nixon stacked the CIA with Gopper-friendly agents while he was Eisenhower's Veep, and this cabal pulled off the assassination of John F. Kennedy and later his brother Bobby. It is a certainty that bad intel led to JFK's embarrassing involvement in the Bay of Pigs incident. Photos taken in Dealy Plaza on the day of JFK's assassination are reputed to show E. Howard Hunt and fellow Watergate conspirator Frank Sturgis.

Some people will tell you that conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination or connecting it to Watergate are pure flights of fantasy. Magic bullet theories, missing brains, two widely conflicting autopsies, dozens of witnesses dying shortly after the event, the elimination of Lee Harvey 'fallguy' Oswald before trial...

..."Nothing to see here folks, move along."

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Smoking Gun Burning Pants

..Gonzales is Lying to Senate Judiciary Committee AGAIN

Patrick Leahy has been a thorn in the Side of Attorney General Alberto 'Abu' Gonzales since his confirmation hearings last year. This Jan. 6/06 article in Slate shows Leahy's frustration with Gonzales over the latter's refusal to give straight answers to Leahy's direct questions about his position on the President's power to authorize torture of detainees.
"Early in the day, Gonzales professed the requisite faith that America was "a nation of laws and not of men," but his opinion of the president's ability—however limited—to authorize individuals to engage in criminal acts suggests the opposite. This is a government of good men, Gonzales implicitly assured the senators, so there's no need to worry about legal hypotheticals like whether torture is always verboten. Don't worry, because we don't do it. It's a strange argument from a conservative: We're the government. Trust us."
This Feb. 6/06 article from the Washington Post shows that Gonzo's position on Presidential authority was still unclear a month later, and just days after his February 3 confirmation. Now the subject is not torture, but the authority to spy on American citizens without a warrant. Note that the WaPo article includes hearing transcripts highlighting Arlen 'magic bullet' Specter's blocking a Leahy motion to swear Gonzo in, and Gonzo's declaration that his testimony would be the same whether he was under oath or not.

Fast forward another month. Gonzo has written a letter to the Senate 'clarifying' his Feb. 6 testimony, which letter prompts this response from Leahy; "More than three weeks after the hearing you send the Committee a six-page letter seeking to alter your live testimony. Your letter, in fact, does little to clarify your testimony. Instead, it raises many questions, both factual and also some going to the credibility of your testimony.. admit that 'the Department’s legal analysis has evolved over time.'..You will still need to correct or better explain your statements on pages 184 and 187 of the transcript, which you recognize 'may give [a] misimpression.' "

So what Gonzo was really saying on Feb. 6 was that his testimony would be false whether given under oath or not. And as all this history demonstrates, the Attorney General has a well established pattern of mendacity in the service of undermining the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.

Enough on Gonzales history with Leahy. Current events focus on Leahy's grilling of Gonzales over the handling of the Maher Arar case. (thanks, Ice Station Tango.) But here's a new wrinkle. To answer Leahy's question of why Arar, who has been vindicated by a Canadian Commission of Inquiry (that spent millions of dollars and heard hundreds of hours of testimony, BTW) remains on a watchlist, Gonzales promised that the information justifying this would be provided to Leahy within a week. The briefing is supposedly already being prepared.
Here is that exchange

The thing is, the Canadian government already know what is going to be in that briefing, as this Globe and Mail article shows,
"Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said yesterday there was 'nothing new' in the American dossier on Maher Arar that would justify keeping him on a terrorist watch list, although a top U.S. administration official indicated an explanation may be forthcoming. 'He should not be on the watch list,' Mr. Day said after pressing the issue with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. 'We have seen some recent information that has not altered our opinion at all.'

Mr. Chertoff refused to comment on why Mr. Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, still cannot enter the United States or fly over its territory. Barely a kilometre away in Washington, Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was also demanding an explanation from U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzalez."
And being lied to. Again. Gonzales should be tried for perjury, and immediately relieved of his job. And based on his fuzzy interpretation of law, he should also be disbarred. Then he and the rest of the Bush Criminal Conspiracy should face war crimes tribunals.

(updated 11:15 pm to add video)

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Cross-posted from Les Enragé


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Assault on Justice

Knowing full well that they face defeat in court cases covering issues ranging from public corruption to the NSA wiretapping program and the denial of habeas corpus in hundreds of cases, the Bush administration has turned to a new and disturbing tactic. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is dismissing federal judges and replacing them with judges who he expects will make decisions based on political affiliation rather than legal merit.

From the Washington Post,
"[Gonzales] denied any political motives and vowed to quickly submit new nominees for the jobs to the Senate for confirmation.

'What we're trying to do is ensure that for the people in each of these respective districts, we have the very best possible representative for the Department of Justice,' Gonzales testified, adding later: 'I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons or if it would in any way jeopardize an ongoing serious investigation. I just would not do it.'

Gonzales's remarks in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee came in response to questions from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other lawmakers about the forced removals of at least six U.S. attorneys, including several who have overseen some of the government's highest-profile corruption prosecutions."
Consider one of the judges who is on the way out; "Carol C. Lam in San Diego, who led the corruption prosecution of former congressman Randy 'Duke' Cunningham (R-Calif.)" On the way in is Tim Griffin, who was recently working for the RNC trying to dig up dirt on Democratic candidates. Despite Gonzo's protests otherwise, that looks political to me.
Senator Feinstein seems to agree.
Diane Feinstein Adresses the Senate

Here's Olbermann with Jonathan Turley's reaction:
Assault on Justice
Turley gets right to the point when he remarks that Gonzo is 'more General than Attorney...he seems just inherently hostile towards the rule of law.' Which when you think of it is just what you want if you're trying to set up a police state. This seems to be something they've been planning for some time, too. Under a little known provision added into the USA PATRIOT Act when it was renewed, the judges no longer require congressional confirmation.

Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy, titles his post on this subject simply, with an infamous Bush quote, "This would be a whole lot easier if this was a dictatorship…just as long as I’m the dictator!" - This move seems to put Bush one step closer to that goal.

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Goodbye Denny

Denny Doherty, the powerful lead voice of The Mamas and The Papas, died today at the age of 66. The Mamas and The Papas' great harmonies allowed them to remain popular through a period when few American bands could hold their own against the British Invasion begun when The Beatles rose to fame.
California Dreamin'
(From Truthdig)
“Everybody used to think that John Phillips, who wrote the songs, was also the main voice of the group, but it wasn’t—it was the angelic voice of Denny Doherty,” said Larry Leblanc, Canadian editor of Billboard Magazine. “He was often overlooked but it was really his voice that carried the group.”
By the way, Denny was a fellow Canadian, born in Halifax, NS.

Cross-posted from Les Enragé

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Gonzales Caves In

Democratic Majority Begins to Bear Fruit

The first of what we hope to be many Senate hearings into administration malfeasance has had new Justice committee chairman Patrick Leahy questioning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the matter of the NSA wiretapping program. The program was declared to be unconstitutional and even criminal by Federal Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor way back in August. There are a couple of articles at Glenn Greenwald's site here and here for those who wish to be brought up to date on the issue.

In a letter to Leahy and ranking minority [insert taunt here] committee member Arlen "The Enabler" Specter, Gonzales claims that the program will now operate under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC.) This of course was always legally required, both constitutionally in accordance with the fourth amendment and statutorily to comply with the FISA law set up after the wiretapping abuses of the Nixon administration. Greenwald, who is the acknowledged expert on this matter, was not impressed by Gonzales' reluctant and belated performance of his clear duty as Attorney General.
"[U]ltimately, there are only two options -- (1) the administration is now complying fully and exclusively with FISA when eavesdropping, in which case all of its prior claims that it could not do so and still fight against The Terrorists are false, or (2) the administration has changed its eavesdropping program some, but it is still not fully complying with FISA, in which case nothing of significance has changed (at least on the lawbreaking issues) because the administration is still violating the law."

Let me rephrase that. The administration is pretending that it will now comply with FISA and the constitution because something has changed. Which frankly is a load of crap. The only thing that has changed is the political landscape, where the word oversight now actually means oversight, not overlook. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a legal ruling that allows wiretapping without a warrant being issued.
"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."
-- Amendment IV, The Constitution of The United States of America
I can hardly wait until Leahy questions Gonzales on what I think are much more pressing issues in Justice's bailiwick: Suspension of habeas corpus under the Military Commissions Act; Incarceration and imprisonment without charges at Guantanamo Bay; Torture; Signing Statements; The theory of unitary executive presidential powers, to name a few. Gonzales needs to be reminded that he swore an oath to uphold the law, not to support his long-time friend George Bush in his newly carved-out dictatorship.

There are few people in the Bush administration who are worse than the Chimperor himself. For his complicity in the kidnapping, torture and deaths of innocent detainees, Gonzales makes it onto that short list.

UPDATE (3 pm., 01/18): Here's a snippet from the New York Times article on this.
"Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales is expected to face hostile questioning on Thursday from the Senate Judiciary Committee on the program. And an appellate court in Cincinnati is scheduled to hear arguments in two weeks on the government’s appeal of an earlier ruling declaring the program illegal and unconstitutional.

Some legal analysts said the administration’s pre-emptive move could effectively make the court review moot, but Democrats and civil rights advocates said they would press for the courts and Congress to continue their scrutiny of the program of wiretapping without warrants, which began shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."
How could this make the standing decision moot? The judge in this case had already determined that there was a prima facie case to pursue CRIMINAL charges against the administration, whatever NSA and CIA operatives that were involved, and even non-governmental agencies like AT&T that may have co-operated. This is like a thief who was already facing charges of holding up several liquor stores being let go because he has promised not to do it anymore. Every criminal in America should be asking their lawyer to pursue that option now that the precedent has been set.



Monday, January 15, 2007

Joining the Swarm

In my inbox this morning was a link to this post at The Gaelic Starover (h/t Blue Gal.) It seems that the New York Times has picked up on the story of Spocko's Brain, a smallish blog that got itself into a pissing war with media giant ABC/Disney over things being said on the air at Disney-owned KSFO radio.

The story in a nutshell:
-KSFO's right-wing talkshow hosts have been spewing things, including Melanie Morgan's apparent advocacy of murdering Nancy Pelosi, that would make mAnne Coulter think twice. (Check that. I just remembered the 'crème brulée' comment she made about the Supreme Court.)
-Spocko started a campaign against KSFO and ABC/Disney that included posting digital copies of the offensive statements, said copies forwarded to KSFO's advertisers so they would be aware of the hate speech their dollars were funding.
-ABC/Disney retaliated with a letter to Spocko's ISP alleging copyright infringement over the sound clips. The ISP didn't just ask Spocko to remove the clips - they suspended his service, killing his blog.
-Other bloggers, notably Daily Kos, rallied to Spocko's aid, calling for a blogswarm. The Electronic Freedom Foundation agreed to back Spocko by footing his legal bills to fight ABC/Disney. Spocko is back up and running at a new ISP.

My observations:
-For an organization that includes a news service, ABC/Disney seems dismally unaware of the 'fair use' provisions of the Digital Millenium copyright act.
-In Canada, where there is no first amendment, free speech is still protected, but hate speech is a crime, Melanie Morgan, Coulter, Limbaugh, O'Reilly et. al. would find themselves in court facing possible jail time.
-When the MSM does fight for the first amendment, it is in the most egregious and despicable way, as this case involving FOX, resolved in 2003 demonstrates. Court Rules the Media Can LIE

Happy ending: Bloggers really can make a difference. They are showing themselves (at least in the clear air of Greater Left Blogistan, but not in the fetid swampy regions of Lower Reight Blogsylvania) to have a thirst for truth and an understanding of journalistic integrity rare in the highly-paid professional newswhores of FOX, ABC/Disney, et. al. SOME small segment of the MSM is beginning to recognize this, as proven by the NYT article and this video clip. Spocko's story has spread far beyond the small readership he had before this controversy arose. Good on ya' Spocko! Way to cut yourself in for a piece of the action.

CBS SanFran on Spocko

Crossposted from Les Enragé
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Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Secret Government

Nate at Get In Their Face has just posted the full 90-minute version of Bill Moyer's 1987 documentary The Secret Government - primarily an examination of the Iran/Contra scandal, its investigation, and the aftermath. Even though this was 20 years ago it is still relevant, because the secret government is still in operation. The only thing is, what was being done covertly then is now being done openly, even blatantly. And they've dropped the 'secret' from the name. It's just called The Government now.

The Enterprise, as its operatives referred to it among themselves, was designed from the start to be a stand-alone, self-financing entity free from all government scrutiny and outside the bounds of both domestic and international laws. It was in fact created for the express purpose of breaking the law, and should have been prosecuted vigorously under the RICO ( Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ) statute. Because it illegally diverted US military resources and weaponry outside of the legitimate command structure, many of its members could also have been tried for treason. Instead, even after the worst details of this operation were discovered, leading to the Iran/Contra investigation, many aspects of the scandal were protected by Reagan administration claims of 'National Security.'

Ollie North (pictured right) should have received a cigarette and a blindfold for his part in this mess. Instead he went on to a lucrative career as a speaker at conservative functions and is now a political commentator lying propagandist for FOX "news."

Ollie's boss back then was Reagan's National Security Adviser: Vice Admiral John Poindexter got off scot-free for his central role in the affair and went on to develop the "Total Information Awareness" technology that is at the heart of the NSA wiretapping program.

Anyone who watched the Iran/Contra hearings will tell you I would be remiss in excluding the key role played by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. He missed no opportunity to block the thrust of the investigation and provide a platform from which the conspirators could exalt their crimes as heroic and patriotic.

As the result of the incomplete investigation, we have no assurance that anything more than the tip of the Secret Government's iceberg of activities ever came to light. Barely enough to cool the drinks at a Republican country club function. One would be naive to think that this 'stand-alone, self-financing' organization would just go away. None of its members ever showed anything but pride in their activities, which by the way were very lucrative. There was considerable financial motive for the gang to keep on doing what they had already been caught red-handed at and, having escaped unpunished, there was little incentive for them to stop. As a result this video looks like history, but feels eerily like current events.

Watch the video. Say Hi to Nate for me. Then come back and tell me what you think. See you in comments.

Cross-posted from Les Enragé
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Thursday, January 11, 2007

World Protests Illegal Detentions

Five-year Anniversary of First Arrivals At Gitmo

"Demonstrations were held around the world on Thursday to press the Bush administration to close the prison at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Protesters gathered in cities such as London, Rome, Tokyo and New York..
..In Washington, D.C., about 100 protesters were arrested inside a federal courthouse, though they had a permit to gather at the building and a judge had allowed them to demonstrate inside the facility..

..Five years ago, the first prisoners from the U.S. war on terror were flown from Afghanistan to the naval base in Guantanamo Bay. Close to 400 prisoners suspected of having links to the militant group al-Qaeda and the Taliban are still being held at the base..

..Guantanamo Bay has become a lightning rod for criticism, with human rights activists saying the prisoners are being held without charge or hope of obtaining a fair trial. Activists have also complained about the treatment of prisoners, alleging that some detainees have been tortured to extract confessions..
..The U.S. military has said it plans to charge 60 to 80 of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and military trials could start next summer. But many of the detainees may never be tried by a military court, and under the U.S. Military Commissions Act, which President Bush signed last October, they could be deprived of the right to contest their imprisonment in a civilian court."
Radio Netherlands Worldwide is carrying this story. So is the BBC. Here's The Guardian's take. The Boston Globe weighs in.

NPR has 'a history of the US military base, and detention of "enemy combatants", plus an analysis of the Bush administration's detainee policies.

Amnesty International describes it as 'a human rights scandal.'

Everybody apparently agrees that it must be stopped. Everybody, that is, outside of the Bush administration and their diminishing number of increasingly ill-informed followers. After five long years, how much longer will it continue?

Cross-posted from Les Enragé
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Friday, January 05, 2007

At Our Expense

Through a Mirror Darkly

SadButTrue's story about the much-maligned Canadian health care system saving the life of a friend with lymphoma has its dark mirror in my brother Paul's story.

Paul died this past summer, one of more than 18,000 Americans who die every year whose deaths can be linked to their lack of health insurance. That makes it the sixth leading cause of death for people between the ages of 25 and 64 in the United States. That's the equivalent of six 9/11s every year. And it's just as senseless.
I've begun sharing Paul's story, and news regarding health care reform in the United States, at my blog, Ave Cassandra. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share it here at Les Enragés as well.

It was the last Sunday in July, and Paul thought he'd eaten something bad. Or maybe it was the stomach flu.

The next day my other brother Curtis stopped by to find Paul curled up on the couch worrying about whether it would be less expensive in the long run to go to an emergency room or to a doctor.

Self-employed and with a baby on the way Paul could not afford decent health insurance for himself, although he made sure his pregnant fiancée and their baby were covered. The most recent numbers for California show that health insurance for a family of four averages about $11,860 annually.

Paul was a hard-working photographer, caterer, and film-maker — he played "Snake" in "The Real Old Testament," a mockumentary he created together with Curtis that won awards at film festivals around the world.

Tuesday at dawn, he and Sarah finally went in to the nearby UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center. Classic appendicitis. But when they gave him a CAT-scan the doctor decided it looked more like diverticulitis.

Although Paul had been vomiting for two days, they sent him home early in the afternoon with antibiotics he couldn't keep down and advice to follow up at the county hospital, in a far-away and unfamiliar part of town.

Standard procedure, we've been told, would have been to admit Paul, since diverticulitis and appendicitis are so easily misdiagnosed for one another, and because that mistake can be deadly.

Sarah brought Paul back to the Santa Monica medical center late Tuesday night.

They gave him another CAT-scan and talked some more about transferring him to county.

They evidently did not compare the two CAT-scans, which showed a dramatic and frightening disintegration of Paul's condition. If they had, the surgeon told us, surely he would have been rushed into surgery. Studies show that the uninsured do not get as good care in American hospitals as do insured people.

Paul finally went into surgery Wednesday mid-morning. His ruptured appendix was the worst the surgeon had ever seen. Paul died, at age 45, a little after midnight, on Thursday, August 3, 2006.

I cannot explain how much we miss him. We were not ready to say good-bye.

His baby daughter was born this autumn.

We so need universal health care in this country. Paul shouldn't have died.

Paul's widow has spent months beating herself up about why she didn't insist, in the face of his balking, on him going to the hospital. But how could she have known? We've all learned to turn away from those what ifs. When my husband reported to me — calling from visiting L.A. from Denver — that Paul and Sarah had canceled dinner due to some kind of food poisoning or something, why didn't I call? Maybe I would have realized it was more than something he ate. My husband kept saying after Paul died that he should have insisted on going over, that he might have realized it was appendicitis, seeing as he'd had it himself a few years back. Paul's symptoms were classic.

And all the if onlys in the world won't bring Paul back.

Americans need health care reform. Our lives depend on it. We deserve to join the rest of the developed world and provide our citizens affordable, basic health care. We're already paying for it, after all.

Every other industrialized country in the world spends far less per person on health care than we do in the United States. And they cover everyone. Their outcomes for many medical conditions are better than ours. Their life expectancy is longer and infant mortality rates are lower. Their people see doctors more frequently. Waits for surgery, depending upon the country, are less than ours. They are more likely to have had the same doctor for more than five years. Far greater percentages of them are satisfied with their national health care.

Even the supposedly beleaguered Canadians, with their under-funded system, say they're more satisfied. Only 8 percent say they’d trade theirs for ours.

The time is right for the United States to legislate universal health care. We can't allow ourselves to be swayed by the expensive television ads designed to frighten us. The health care industry is the single biggest lobbyist on Capital Hill. In the years leading up to 2003, the ten top pharmaceutical companies made more in profits than the other 490 Fortune 500 companies combined. There’s a lot of money at stake.

But a look at Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, and every other industrialized country should reassure us. Universal healthcare isn’t frightening.

The scary thing is already here. And it's at our expense.

Here's an excerpt from the song that a friend composed and sang at Paul's memorial:
Someone's having fun and it seems at our expense...

the things you don't need, you can always hold and touch
and the ones that disappear are the ones that mean so much
and its so funny we're in tears
and will be for years and years
no lesson learned, no wisdom gained
it's so funny that we're in pain

though every story is a treasure, and every memory gold
we'd trade them all away to watch our friend grow old
so he could laugh once again at the absurdity of life
and be a father and a husband to his daughter and his wife...
Cross-posted from Les Enragé
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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Even In Victory, I'm Not Over It

Crossposted at Ice Station Tango.

When the stolen 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections were fresh in our minds, electoral irregularities seemed synonymous with the death of America and freedom. To me, anyway.

Well, now that the amazing, shutout victory of 2006 (swearing in today), has come and gone and left Karl Rove doing "The Math" on his fingers and toes in a frantic, spastic effort to find out what happened, the stolen election meme has receded.

Well, believe what you want about the conspiracies, nothing has changed in the wake of the Democrats' electoral success. The E-Voting system is broken and dangerously vulnerable to manipulation.

From the New York Times (h/t Russ):
A laboratory that has tested most of the nation’s electronic voting systems has been temporarily barred from approving new machines after federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests.

By the way something, that Kerry guy can't win no matter what he does.

By the way something else, all week long we've had the myth of Gerald Ford shoved up our asses. The lie that Ford pardoned Bush to heal the country is total crap. Ford admitted as much to Weathervane Woodward. Healing the country would have been to put Nixon's ass on trial and then send his ass to jail. Instead, he got away with it and became a lovable curmudgeon periodically kissing America's ass on Larry King Live until he croaked. Now we got this group of Nixonite traitors because no one made an example of them. So, no, I won't be letting the elections or the WMD, or Katrina, or any of this other bullshit go anytime soon and neither should anyone else. That's not healing.

VIDEO: How about the Al Gore doll for President?
VIDEO: Fox and Friends is always good for a laugh.

Cross-posted from Ice Station Tango
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Monday, January 01, 2007

A Personal Story

This piece is in response to a must-read Paul Krugman article in the New York Times, available at Jurassic Pork's site (he who cuts the velvet rope of NYT select - thanks.)
"The U.S. health care system is a scandal and a disgrace. But maybe, just maybe, 2007 will be the year we start the move toward universal coverage.

In 2005, almost 47 million Americans — including more than 8 million children — were uninsured, and many more had inadequate insurance."
Up here in Canada we have a universal, single payer health care system that puts the needs of ordinary citizens above the desires of a few insurance executives to become obscenely wealthy. I have seen the Canadian system criticized harshly in various American forums or rather, I've seen our system misrepresented and the misrepresentation harshly criticized. Conservatives love using the straw man argument, don't they?

Here's my personal story. My best friend was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1997 and told the odds were he wouldn't last a year. I'm happy to say he bucked those odds and is still alive now. He didn't know he had lymphoma until some time after his first medical crisis, when one of his lungs spontaneously collapsed. His wife decided not to wait for an ambulance, just bundled him into the car and broke every traffic law getting him to the emergency ward as fast as possible. Which, the doctors told her, saved his life. After reinflating his lung, the docs decided he should stay in the hospital for further observation. The next day his other lung collapsed. The doctors said that, had he not already been in the hospital, this second crisis would have been fatal. Later still his spleen ruptured. This time the doctors told him he was lucky it happened during the daytime, because the necessary staff that saved him were not available on the night shift. All in all, my friend is one very lucky person.

I don't tell this story to demonstrate the often unsung excellence of our system, though it does just that. The point is this. I was recently talking to his wife about this, and saying how much worse off they would have been had this happened in the USA. The financial burden would have destroyed them, they probably would have lost their home, as rising premiums and uncovered deductibles ate away at their livelihood. But she figures it would have been much worse than that. In America, the wealthiest country in the world, there would have been a 27% chance that she would not have taken her husband to the hospital immediately in the first place, out of concern for the expense. Or so one of the oncologists told her.

If you really need emergency medical treatment, you need it RIGHT NOW, dammit. Not after filling out a bunch of forms, not after confirming that your plan is paid up. What are the odds that an HMO would have quibbled over the cost of the medically necessary period of hospital observation that saved his life at least twice in the first week after his initial crisis? Or that some bean-counter vetoed a necessary aspect of treatment due to a lawyer's interpretation of paragraph 117, subsection 3 in the contract? In nine years, there have been dozens of times when my friend, had he lived in the USA, could have been killed by an accountant. This is unacceptable.

Consider health care reform a priority. Your life could very well depend on it.

Update: One of our readers has kindly consented to post the corollary to this story, HERE.

Cross-posted at Les Enragé and Ice Station Tango

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