Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Israeli - Palestinian Conflict: voices of reason are starting to be heard

Bill Moyers - one of the best journalists out there - has taken on the Anti-Defamation League. It is definitely worth the read.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Defending the Torturers - the Richard Cohen Story

Like so many in the media establishment in the D.C area, the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen thinks we shouldn't prosecute American civil servants or politicians who engaged in or authorized torture in the Bush Administration. His argument, similar to his Post colleague David Ignatius (and many others in politics here) is that lives may well have been saved, and post-9/11 we all wanted to be safe. So, a few bad guys got really messed up psychologically and physically? So what if the U.S. finally came out of the closet as a harsh, potentially totalitarian state, like many of our “allies.” If we have to do something, a blue ribbon commission will find the truth, set us free, and that should be the end of that.

Well sir, your lengthy career not withstanding, you have it wrong. You are looking at this through the lens of the D.C. national political establishment (where you are an elitist who enjoys certain kinds of privileged access), instead of the lens of the big picture. And you are either ignoring, or are ignorant of the real damage those actions, and their actors have done to the United States.

First, there is really no line between torturing foreigners whom you believe to be a threat, and torturing your own citizens who dare to disagree with you. I know, there is no evidence that American civil servants or military personnel tortured anyone who can claim U.S. citizenship, but there is plenty of evidence that those same officials thought Americans were a threat unto themselves. How else do you explain warrantless wiretapping programs that, even now, are shielded from the public’s scrutiny? How else do you explain the arrogance of telling the American people “So” when it is pointed out to you that 70% of them disapprove of what you are doing supposedly in their name? Among the many things it has left behind, the Bush Administration has left a serious disregard to both American laws, and American institutions.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the legal side of the issue. Our constitution says (in Article Six) “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” It is remarkably straightforward language, especially since it was written so long ago – and basically says that America, once she enters into a treaty relationship that is duly and properly ratified by Congress, must take that treaty law and act upon it as if it had been passed by the Congress itself and signed by the President.

Where that gets sticky for the Bush Administration, and Mr. Cohen’s defense, is the Geneva Convention. The four parts (adopted between 1864 and 1949) expressly govern the treatment of combatants in all types of conflicts. For our purposes, the “war on terror” certainly falls into the definition of the second convention as an international war with involvement of at least one “Higher Contracting Party” – namely the U.S. The second convention has specific requirements for humane treatment, including expressly forbidding torture. And, as a treaty fully ratified and adopted by the Congress, it is the highest law of the land in the U.S.

Thus, anyone torturing in the name of the U.S. and anyone authorizing or directing torture in the name of the U.S. is in violation of the Convention, and the U.S. Constitution, since the later clearly directs the former to be the highest law of the land. A generation ago, we forced a President to resign because he had broken other U.S. laws, though none of the legal issues raised in Watergate were of this caliber.

Yet now, with mounting evidence of a significant breach of U.S. law, Mr. Cohen (and too many others) labor intensively to tell we the people that we should just look the other way. We should not open this wound, prosecute these men, because it will make us unsafe – and potentially take away tools that might save lives later (though there is no specific evidence ever presented to back this claim). Well sir, you are wrong. The best and highest tool we have to defeat terrorists is the Constitution, and the civil liberties and protections it contains. Anything that weakens that Constitution, anything that subverts our laws, is a victory for those who seek to bring us down. And I, as a citizen, refuse to let the Constitution be weakened. Further, I refuse to let it be weakened so that folks like Mr. Cohen can continue to hide from the hypocrisy of claiming to love and support our nation, while all the while destroying it from within just so they can maintain their “elite” status in the fish bowl that is D.C.

As usual, this is an issue that resonates across new media. Hat tip to Glenn Greenwald for this quote from Thomas Jefferson, which summs up the situation nicely:

"I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine, 1789. ME 7:408, Papers 15:269

I hate it when others jump on my band wagon. Ok, Not really.

Apparently, the judiciary is now weighing in - and their take might just surprise you.

NOAA scientist publishes on climate change - and it's worse then we thought!

Of all the times I hope my professional colleagues are wrong - this is one of them. I can't fault Dr. Solomon's science - she really is a climate science "rock star" because she does good work, and has a solid track record of publication. That track record, incidentally, is how you get street cred as a scientist, so when her study is dismissed (as I assume it will be) by many, they will be denying decades of persistent, solid science.

Aside from the obvious challenges in the article - and anyone who thinks massive coastal flooding and drought that lasts for 100's of years isn't a challenge is delusional - there's a more fundamental issue. Read the wrong way, this article points to a future where the changes we make now have had little effect. Such prognoses, while scientifically accurate, feed the many climate change deniers who say "well, if we can't do anything about it, why should I give up my hummer, my vacation house, and all the other things that make my life a wanton display of American consumerism." After all, such single-minded folks will intone, the droughts will not occur until after I am long dead, so why should I care?

Well, if you have kids, you should care. If you like clean water and clean air, you should care. If you have a conscience, you should care. Leaving all that aside, if you value the American capitalist economy you should care. the types of drought, coastal flooding, and resultant population dislocations that Dr. Solomon's work hints at will have impacts on our economy that are far greater then what we see now in our current recession/depression. We wont' be able to sustain our economy if we're fighting this stuff. Building bridges, or bailing out banks will be the least of our worries.

So take steps now. Car pool, ride mass transit, turn out the lights. Turn your thermostat back. It all helps.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Obama Inauguration

The Inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th Presdient is now over. The parade is winding down, and the balls will soon start. I watched both from the warmth of the living room of some of my friends - I wasn't about to brave the chaos and cold downtown. I'm home now, and have managed to download copies of Mr. Obama's speech, as well as some of the other speeches from today. I'm going to work on another post, witj much more detail, on how I see the Inauguration.

For now, we should all be grateful that we live in a Nation where power can be handed over so easily and so often. It does, cliche' though it is, show the world how great our nation can be.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Paul Krugman is right

about what we need to do to finally recover from the Bush 43 Presidency. I urge you to write your Senators and Congressmen. And send John Conyers a supportive note as well - he's actually on record in favor of doing the heavy lifting for an investigation.

Israel's Gaza folly - and America's complicity.

So, is America digging itself deeper in the Middle East? Lot's of American pundits and politicians think Israel is doing the right thing in its war on Gaza. But with this much investment by the U.S. Military, one has to wonder if they are capable of informed, rational thought.

And, H/T to the inestimable Glenn Greenwald

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Injustice at Justice

So let me get this straight - the Justice Department will not prosecute criminal acts (including perjury) by its own political appointees? And this is the Rule of Law?

Let's do right by the United States

Quoth Glenn Greenwald :

"It's critical that Obama -- and the rest of the political establishment -- hear loud objections, not reverential silence, when he flirts with ideas like the ones he suggested on Sunday. This dynamic prevails with all political issues. Where political pressure comes only from one side, that is the side the wins -- period."

Now, if we could just get the rest of the country to actually take up this responsibility, then the Change We Need will be come the Change We Get. Freedom is not, afterall, free, and we have to fight for it. Otherwise, the authoritarians win, and we the people loose. Again.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Want to see whre in the U.S I've been?

With a Hat Tip to Greg Laden here's the map.
visited 27 states (54%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or try another Douwe Osinga project

As for other parts of the world:

visited 9 states (4%)
Create your own visited map of The World or try another Douwe Osinga project

Clearly, I have some globe trotting to do.

Banking blues - sorting out the continuing panic in financial markets

I'll only add one addendum to this fine piece: There are an army of analysts of all types working for the federal government. Many of them are, in fact accountants. I f the banks won't sort out their debt sheets voluntarily (and I agree they want to hide it for as long as possible), then we have capable, competent folks who can do it for them. And at no additional cost to taxpayers or the banks. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The opening salvo of peak oil?

Without firing a shot, Russia has declared war on Europe. And it's not just any war - it's a war of fuel, of energy, of the ability to do things by burning carbon. Anyone who thinks this isn't our future, unless we go swiftly and humbly to alternatives, is naive at best, and in denial at worst. Just wait until OPEC does it to the U.S.