Thursday, October 06, 2005

This site has moved

From now on I will combine this blog with another. A quiet room can now be found at http://reynwar.blogspot.com.
Cheers!

Friday, August 05, 2005

On Vacation

If the postings seem sparse between the end of July and the end of August it is because I am globetrotting a bit. I will be back soon with, hopefully, lots to say.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Bush blocks release of Abu Ghraib photos

The government continues to stone wall investigation in to the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. President Bush and the Defense Department is refusing to cooperate with a federal judge's oreder to release phtographs and viedotapes related to the Abu Ghraib scandal.

From the Progressive Newswire:

WASHINGTON - July 22 - The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) today denounced the latest efforts of the Bush Administration to block the release of the Darby photos and videos depicting torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison facility. On June 2, 2004, CCR, along with the ACLU, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace filed papers with the U.S. District Court, charging the Department of Defense and other government agencies with illegally withholding records concerning the abuse of detainees in American military custody. Since then, the organizations have been repeatedly rebuffed in their efforts to investigate what happened at the prison.
In June, the government requested and received an extension from the judge stating that they needed time in order to redact the faces of the men, women and children believed to be shown in the photographs and videos. They were given until today to produce the images, but at the eleventh hour filed a motion to oppose the release of the photos and videos, based on an entirely new argument: they are now requesting a 7(F) exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold law enforcement-related information in order to protect the physical safety of individuals. Today’s move is the latest in a series of attempts by the government to keep the images from being made public and to cover up the torture of detainees in U.S. custody around the world.


It is funny how the Bush administration is all for protecting individuals as long as it suits them (ahem, Valeria Plame).
It is hard to maintain a system of checks and balances, if parts of the government feel they are above being checked and balanced.

Of course it is plain to see why they would want to cover this up. Every bit evidence released just supplied one more horrifying piece to this puzzle of abuse:
From 2004!
The unreleased images show American soldiers beating one prisoner almost to death, apparently raping a female prisoner, acting inappropriately with a dead body, and taping Iraqi guards raping young boys, according to NBC News

These are certainly not the images we want to see on the nightly news. But impeding a government investigation not only casts America in the role of cruel imperialists on the world stage, it also condones such abuse and sets a percedent for torture.

And it gets worse, Bush is threatening to veto any attempt by the senate to legislate detainee policies. Senators such as John McCain (R-Arizona) and Linsey Graham (R-South Carolina) (yes, two republicans!) are suggesting such outrageous policies as barring the holding of "ghost" detainees whose names are not disclosed, codifying a ban against cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, and using the Army manual as a basis for all interrogations (Reuters).

The White House claims that such amendments would "interfere with the protection of Americans from terrorism by diverting resources from the war."
This poses the question: at what cost are we willing to win this "war"?

There is a good discussion of all of this at the Daily Kos blog.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Women's rights not looking good in new Iraqi constitution

At the Republican National Convention last summer, George W. Bush declared that with the "use of American power" in Afghanistan and Iraq, "young women across the Middle East will hear the message that their day of equality and justice is coming."

The message is sounding a little bit quieter today in Iraq, where the latest draft of the constitution includes a reduction in the rights of women originally granted in the interim constitution.

From the New York Times Online today:
A working draft of Iraq's new constitution would cede a strong role to Islamic law and could sharply curb women's rights, particularly in personal matters like divorce and family inheritance.
[...]
One of the critical passages is in Article 14 of the chapter, a sweeping measure that would require court cases dealing with matters like marriage, divorce and inheritance to be judged according to the law practiced by the family's sect or religion.
[...]
The document's writers are also debating whether to drop or phase out a measure enshrined in the interim constitution, co-written last year by the Americans, requiring that women make up at least a quarter of the parliament.

On a positive note, the draft does include many provision aimed at civil rights including the first which states that "all Iraqis are equal before the law" and a final article forbidding censorship of the press.

How the Other Half Lives

I somehow just stumbled across this blog community, Red State.org, a conservative, republican blog group, whose mission is to counteract the dangerous perception that "blogs are predominantly a venue for community and activism on the Left." Seems only fair in leiu of that liberal media (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

The site tackles a number of political and social issues, and is definitely worth checking out, if for no other reason that to enumerate the reasons you are not a conservative.

We have a nominee!

President Bush announced his nominee for the supreme court last night, thereby taking the presure off the White House to answer questions surrounding the Karl Rove CIA leak.

Here is a list of resources on Judge John Roberts, Jr., that goes beyond the consrevatives-love-him, liberals-hate-him coverage found in much of the media.

But in the words of one blogger at the daily kos, "A f-cking white guy!"
  • Robert's biography from Independent Judiciary.com
  • A fact sheet from Pro-choice America
  • Finanical Disclosure Report from Judicial Watch.com
  • Information of Robert's decisions regarding endangered species from Earth Watch.com
  • From an article in Slate, a discussion of Robert's litigation in the Supreme Court decision to deny Americans With Disabilities Act protections to those, who are fired after developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • A discussion of Roberts from Law.com
Also check out John Kerry's page on the significance of the supreme court decision

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The American Way of Life

A Washington Post article from today reveals that the tactics criticized in Abu Ghraib were first used in Guantanamo, with the approval of Donald Rumsfeld.

The article states:
The report's findings are the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used on Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq.


These tactics are not a means by which to abate terrorists or to resolve conflicts in Iraq, since they only justify hatred of the Americans in the eyes of those victimized. The fact that many forms of torture used in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo focus on religious persecution and cultural abominations, only strengthens the message that "liberation" is not the highest priority for those orchestrating the "war on terror."

I would also like to comment on the rhetoric following the London bombings. The notion that we can only "defeat" the terrorists by "not letting them tell us how to live" and maintaining "our way of life" permeated both American and British press following the event. I couldnt help but wonder what "way of life" these people were passionately protecting, because it largely seemed to involve "business as usual." It seemed that these newsanchors and media personalities were missing the fact that - and this is my conjecture, but I think it is arguable - terrorists for the most part don't care if you sit in a cubicle tomorrow and stop and buy a new pair of shoes on your way home from work.

Our way of life is not defined based on whether or not we shop less and if we continue to work 40 hour weeks. Our way of life should be defined based on values we uphold in the world. The desecration of other cultures and religions is not a defendable way of life. The invasion and occupation of other countries is not a defendable way of life. The exploitation of other countries' work forces for cheap labor is not a defendable way of life. Imprisoning and torturing people without due process so that we might momentarily feel a little safer is not a defendable way of life.

Those unfortunate celebrities who are nearly accused of high treason when they suggest that the rise in terrorsim world wide might make us examine our position in the world aren't suggesting that we should raise our hands and surrender to whatever demands anyone with a bit of explosives might make. But it is crucial to understand that it is not our "freedom" nor is it our amazing work ethic that is pissing people from other parts of the world off.

It is a sign of great hubris when a country equates reflecting and reconsidering their actions as equivalent to a "defeat". It is a sign of strength and wisdom to admit their wrongs and correct them where it is possible and prudent.



Wednesday, July 13, 2005

You're so vain. You probably think this act of terrorism is about you. Don't you? Don't you?

Jon Stewart's comments on Monday nights Daily Show (which I watched last night, because my parents have Tivo - so high-tech!) pretty much summed up my take on the media's coverage of the London bombings .
It was something to the effect of, "How terrible!...What's going to happen to us?"

A question on reproductive rights

I swear, I usually shy away from being hyperbolic and making oversimplified comparisons, but reading this series from the BBC on the orphanages, which were formed during Ceausecu's reign in Romania when both abortion and birth control were banned and many families bore more children than they could afford, I couldn't help thinking, "Is this the future of the US if extremely right-wing, conservative Christian's have their way?"

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Rove must go

From the News Hounds:

Fox All-Stars on Rove/Plame Scandal - the spin starts here
On the Special Report "All-Stars" panel discussion 7/11/05, the group (Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, Jeff Birnbaum, and Brit Hume) discussed Karl Rove and his role in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. The lack of diversity within the panel was matched only by the lack of outrage. There was even an air of resignation on the part of the so-called moderates on board. The consensus was that nothing will come of this because hey, he's Karl Rove.

The segment opened with video (aired earlier) of David Gregory (NBC) asking Scott McClellan if Karl Rove committed a crime. McClellan replied with a different version of his other non-answer: "...as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation, we're not going to get into commenting on it."
Gregory then pushed, "Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us after having commented with that level of detail and tell people watching this that somehow you've decided not to talk?" There's a clumsy edit to McClellan calling on Terry Moran of ABC, who asks "Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed, peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?" McClellan replies "that's not a correct characterization, Terry, and I think you are well aware of that."
Comment: Finally a little aggression in the briefing room and we still get no information.
Hume starts things off by saying this has been going on for some time now, all about the "alleged leak" of the identity of an undercover CIA agent who "happened to be the wife of Joe Wilson..." and gives a little background information. Then "the allegation is that in an effort to discredit Wilson, who wrote critically of the administration's policy on Iraq and critically of its concerns about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's regime, the White House, someone in the White House, leaked Valerie Plame, the woman's name and identity and CIA role illegally. Where are we in the investigation?"
Kondracke starts off stating more background: the special prosecutor has been appointed, two reporters almost went to jail, one went to jail, and the question now is...
Brit interrupts saying that one reporter has said, correct me if I'm wrong, that one reporter said he did talk to Karl Rove and Rove did say the Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. So, is Karl Rove caught red-handed?
Kondracke, the Fox version of a liberal on the panel, repeats practically verbatim Rove's lawyer's talking points: Rove didn't know her name; he never referred to her by name; and in order...
Brit interrupts with "and he didn't know what her work was, either."Kondracke says "right, and in order to..."Brit continues to overtalk "and if she was an undercoverop at that time he didn't know that either."Kondracke, still trying to talk, says "right, and in order to violate the law, you have to knowingly reveal the identity of a clandestine CIA agent..."Brit again "and you have to have known about it through classified sources."Kondracke, "right, right. So, did he, are any of those things true? In order to be convicted, indicted anyway, the prosecutor has to establish those things, and all those things we have no knowledge of." All we know is what Rove's lawyer tells us, which is that Rove is not a target of the investigation.
Brit expands that we know Rove has testified in the investigation and that he has signed a waiver that all reporters may talk about whatever conversations he has had with them regarding this. This serves the purpose of making Rove appear to be an open and non-secretive guy.
Kondracke goes on to say that if Rove said to Cooper that Wilson's wife was the one who assigned him to Niger, AND someone talked to Judith Miller AND Bob Novak AND Walter Pincus (WaPo), we do seem to have a White House/administration plot to discredit Wilson.
Fred Barnes jumps in, saying Wilson's story has been totally discredited now. He says if Rove's story is true, he's clearly not going to get indicted. Nobody is, because there probably was no crime committed. He thinks he has the story right, that at the end of a conversation with Matt Cooper, Karl Rove repeated a rumor, that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent, and that's how Wilson was assigned the Niger trip.
Barnes says Rove has 2 problems; first, he's Karl Rove and 3/4 of the press and 100% of the Democrats are out to get him, and second, his lawyer has been (stutters, fumbles for word, hand gestures), deceitful isn't the right word but the way he's answered questions is as if Karl has something to hide.
Jeff Birnbaum reinforces the partisan angle, saying the Democrats see blood in the water and at the least want to embarrass the president's top advisor and in their wildest dreams they could get him fired or sidelined somehow. And he did speak to reporters, and Scott McClellan gave the impression at least that Karl Rove did not speak to reporters...his words were more carefully chosen, saying he did not give classified information which gives him an out in his denials over the last year or two. (Comment: there was video shown earlier in the show dated 9/29/03 of McClellan saying "I've said that it's not true, and I've spoken to Karl Rove.") Birnbaum says the president himself said if someone had done something illegal, and "I think we all agree here, everything we know Karl Rove did not," ...nonetheless if someone were involved, they would pay the price.
Hume comes in with this diminishing tactic: "Is this, as I suspect, the annual summer storm that we get when the doldrums hit in July, or is it a big deal?"
Barnes quickly answers with a dismissive one, saying that it's less than a storm, because it's not an issue that anyone outside the Beltway cares about.
Birnbaum somewhat disagrees by labelling it a partisan issue and saying Democrats will not let it go because of the importance of Rove. they'll keep complaining (whiners) and talking about it.
Brit lays the issue to rest, narrowing the issue down to if there's no indictment for violating the law by leaking classified information, is this over?


Absolutely not! Neither the media nor the Bush administration should not be allowed to dismiss this matter as partisan politics. This is a clear cut case of a high level memeber of the White House breaking federal law and then attempting a cover up.

While this is not a partisan matter, the Democrats must push the investigation in Congress and the Senate and ensure that justice is served. Senator John Conyers has already drafted a letter calling for Rove's resognation, which is now circulating among other House Democrats. Read the full text of the latter here.

Karl Rove under fire

It now seems clear that Karl Rove was the leak in the Valerie Plame case, which has sent two New York Times journalists to jail. There are really only two options now for Rove: either he resigns or he must be fired.

On Oct. 6, 2003, Bush told reporters, "This is a very serious matter, and our administration takes it very seriously."

White House spokesperson Scott McClellan stated, "No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the President of the United States. If someone leaked classified information, the President wants to know. If someone in this administration leaked classified information, they will no longer be a part of this administration, because that's not the way this White House operates."

Some media sources have tried to defend Rove, by argueing that he did not release Valerie Plame's name, but only mentioned that Wilson's wife. This is a ridiculous distinction as Howard Kurtz, the Post's media critic made clear in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer:
WOLF BLITZER (host): And there's no indication he actually released a name to Matt Cooper other than saying she worked over at the CIA on WMD matters.
KURTZ: Well, I think the name thing is a matter of semantics. He says it's Joe Wilson's wife, therefore it's Valerie Plame. I don't think that gets Rove off the hook.

[See Media Matters for more information]

It is time for the Bush administration to honor their promises and, for once, to take responsibilty for their mistake. We should all secon the calls from the editorial board of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that Bush should seek the release of Judith Miller and engage an investigation to get to the bottom of this affair.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Terror in London

I had planned yesterday to log on and write on the G8 summit, which is currently underway in Gleneagles, Scotland, but I woke to news reports of a terrorist attack on London and my mind turned instead to my friends living in that city and their well-being. While there is much that could be said about some of the rhetoric following the bombings (in particular that of certain American politicians and media personalities) and the ramifications this catastrophe has for foreign policies of the US and the UK, now is the time to turn our thoughts to those who have suffered in this attack and the many other acts of violence that occur daily in many other parts of the world.

Dafur
Burma
Palestine
Congo
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Côte d'Ivoire
Guantanamo Bay
Zimbabwe
Uzbekistan

and many many more...
Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

“Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.” - Walter Konkrite

It is only a couple of days after the 4th of July. While our legislative and judicial branches have recently been busying themselves ammending the constitution to protect symbols, it is one of our oldest existing rights that some say is under fire at the moment. The 1st amendment states grants not only the Freedom of Speech, but also the Freedom of the Press. Unfortunately, the founding document of America's legal system is pretty damn vague, and what exactly a free press entails is being heavily debated; a few months ago spurned by the Newsweek scandal and most recently because of the imprisonment of New York Times journalist Judith Miller.

[I am assuming everyone else has also been sorta following this story, but if you haven't or would like a recap, BBC has a great Q&A rundown.]


Miller's sentence is related to the New York Times article, which revealed that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. Plame is the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, a retired career diplomat and the former American ambassador to Gabon, in west Africa. Wilson was asked by the CIA to go to Niger and investigate whether Iraq had attemtped to buy uranium there. Wilson found nothing to substantiate the reports and when Bush still decided to refer to them in his speech, Wilson became an outspoken critic of the president - a fact which has lead some conspiracy theorists to believe that the White House planned the CIA leak as a form of revenge.

The situation is sticky. It is arguable that the New York Times should have never printed the name of a CIA agent, but at the end of the day confidentiality is confidentiality. Since reporters are protected from federal laws against leaking the names of undercover CIA operatives, when they are leaked to them, Miller cannot be held for this offense. Instead she is being jailed for not breaking her promise of confidentiality, thus setting a dangerous precedent for similar cases. Reporters rely heavily on anonymous news sources and without ample protection important news relevant to the wellfare and repsonsibilities of U.S. citizens could be lost. A poll from the First Amendment Center shows that 86% of jorunalists believe that confidential news sources are essential to their ability to report some news stories to the public, although only around 10% of the news relies on these sources. While the Valerie Plame case may not have been of essence for democracy's well-being, many other news stories are. [Dare I say Watergate? Or we can dredge up the Newsweek koran story again, with the reminder that koran abuse does seem to have taken place in Guantanamo.]

Many state governments have so-called shield laws in place to protect the rights of confidential sources and the journalists who use them. Even some higher courts have recognized the concerns regarding Freedom of the Press, which comes when the government tries to demand that a journalist reveal their source. In Baker v. F&F Investment, The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that compelling a newsgatherer to disclose confidential sources “unquestionably threatens a journalist’s ability to secure information that is made available to him only on a confidential basis." However, other federal courts has followed the same reasoning being used in the current case and have argued that journalists derserve no more freedoms than any other citizen who can be subpoenaed to testify.

The freedoms, rights and responsibilities of the U.S. media must remain an issue as long we have an politicians in office who evade the truth at all costs. While I hesitate to blame the White House for the Valerie Plame leak, there are certainly many cases of right wing politicians distoring and averting anything resembling honesty. Take Bill Frists claims that HIV can be conducted via tears. Or Rumsfeld's statements that the insurgency in Iraq is in its "last throes"; a statement which was defended through the use of much twisting and waffling by Rumsfeld and Cheney. Look at right-wing media personalities such as Bill O'Reilly and the enrtire Fox news staff, who are continually pushing the boundaries of reality and dizzying us with their spin, while other radio hosts are actually being paid by the Bush administration to tow the party line.

If there is one institution we should be protecting right now it is a free and honest press.

On Comedy Central's The Daily Show a couple of nights ago, journalist Bill Moyers states that the lies of the political right prevail not because they lie, but because there exists such a cacophany of news at the moment, that the average person no longers knows how to recognize the truth. This is a problem that can only be corrected by an educated and discerning public, not intervention or restriction of the freedoms of jorunalists by th federal government.

Thomas Jefferson once said that he would rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers. In this case I say, better to risk the security of one CIA agent, than the security of an entire free press.




‘Abroad’ is home for millions of us

Every voting American should read this post from Riverbend writing from Iraq, who descrbes her thoughts while watching Bush's June 29 speech on the situation in Iraq.
Here are a couple of the most poignant excerpts:

Riverbend describes the discrepancies between Bush's description and the Iraq she and her family live in day to day.

According to him, Iraq was flourishing under the occupation.

In Bush’s Iraq, there is reconstruction, there is freedom (in spite of an occupation) and there is democracy.
“He’s describing a different country…” I commented to E. and the cousin.“Yes,” E. replied. “He’s talking about the *other* Iraq… the one with the WMD.

She also responds to the statement made by General John Vines, which Bush quotes in his speech, "We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us."

He speaks of ‘abroad’ as if it is a vague desert-land filled with heavily-bearded men and possibly camels. ‘Abroad’ in his speech seems to indicate a land of inferior people- less deserving of peace, prosperity and even life.
Don’t Americans know that this vast wasteland of terror and terrorists otherwise known as ‘Abroad’ was home to the first civilizations and is home now to some of the most sophisticated, educated people in the region?
Don’t Americans realize that ‘abroad’ is a country full of people- men, women and children who are dying hourly? ‘Abroad’ is home for millions of us. It’s the place we were raised and the place we hope to raise our children- your field of war and terror.

I myself missed the speech, because I was somewhere over the Atlantic, but the LA Times has printed excerpts from it if you would like to see it.

Not censorship, I swear!

I have had limited internet access due to my travels and then when I logged on to the blog to write, I found that the text in several of my posts had become completely screwball. So after half and hour of fixing those I am ready to comment on the world around me. Unfortunately, in the process of fixing my posts the comments associated with them were deleted. I just wanted anyone out there to be aware that it was technical difficulties and not any disrespect that made your comments go away.
It is always very nice to discover that I this is not just a technofied means of talking to myself.