empty friend

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Saving Darfur

This is cross posted at The Pacific Daily .

Nicholas Kristof has a moving Op-Ed in the NY Times today about Darfur . The piece describes several photos that accompany the column. Kristof has been given access to an African Union archive describing the genocide in Sudan with documents and more photos.
The archive also includes an extraordinary document seized from a janjaweed official that apparently outlines genocidal policies. Dated last August, the document calls for the "execution of all directives from the president of the republic" and is directed to regional commanders and security officials.

"Change the demography of Darfur and make it void of African tribes," the document urges. It encourages "killing, burning villages and farms, terrorizing people, confiscating property from members of African tribes and forcing them from Darfur."

It's worth being skeptical of any document because forgeries are possible. But the African Union believes this document to be authentic. I also consulted a variety of experts on Sudan and shared it with some of them, and the consensus was that it appears to be real.

The U.S. has publicly declared the massacre in Darfur genocide, but at the same time we are not willing to let the International Criminal Court handle the situation. Without our backing any attempts to prosecute these killers would be futile. The U.S. needs to jump on board. If the ICC is not a viable option, then what about setting up Tribunals similar to those used to prosecute the killers in Rwanda?

In his inauguration speech and in the State of the Union Address President Bush went on about freedom being on the march and it is our duty to spread liberty throughout the world. If this is what he truly believes then he needs to put the rhetoric into action and begin to support the world community in coming together to stop these atrocities.

Organizations such as www.darfurgenocide.org and www.savedarfur.org need our support. We need to let our Senators know that we are ashamed at the fact that we have let this continue and that something needs to be done.
During past genocides against Armenians, Jews and Cambodians, it was possible to claim that we didn't fully know what was going on. This time, President Bush, Congress and the European Parliament have already declared genocide to be under way. And we have photos.

This time, we have no excuse.

I couldn’t have said it any better.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Abuse Goes On

This is cross posted at The Pacific Daily .

Again, things have been crazy for me and I haven’t had a chance to post anything in the last couple of days, but I saw this on the local news the other night and I couldn’t believe it.
An Iraqi refugee who returned home to visit relatives says he was detained and severely mistreated by U.S. soldiers for 12 days.

Jawad al-Hamid, 34, of Everett, told The Herald newspaper the soldiers didn't feed him or let him use a restroom for several days, fastened his handcuffs so tight that he was left with scars on his wrists and pushed him to the floor of his tiny cell.

I shouldn’t be surprised at what al-Hamid is claiming. I think what shocks me the most is that this kind of thing continues to happen.
Al-Hamid said he flew from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Oct. 23 with a friend from Seattle. During stops in Chicago and Amman, Jordan, they met two other U.S. Iraqis who were returning to their homeland to visit their families, he said.

The four agreed to rent a car and driver once they arrived at their final stop, Damascus, Syria. They crossed into Iraq from Syria, and several hours later arrived at a U.S. Army checkpoint near al-Ramadi, al-Hamid said.

Soldiers asked the men for their identification, frisked them and searched the car, he said. The soldiers asked why four strangers had rented a car together and crossed into Iraq from Syria, a base for terrorists.

The soldiers also expressed concern about seven cell phones al-Hamid had with him - gifts for his relatives, he said. A man who appeared to be a high-ranking officer then accused the four of being terrorists and ordered soldiers to arrest them, al-Hamid said.

Soldiers put plastic handcuffs on the men and covered their heads with hats or towels, laughing as they were doing so, al-Hamid said. They took them to a detention center, he said.

Maybe the fact that they did not know each other prior to the meeting on the flight over and renting a car and al-Hamid had seven cell phones on him is a legitimate reason to sit them aside and question them, but the treatment they received is absolutely ridiculous. Al-Hamid’s wrists are still scarred from the plastic handcuffs and he doesn’t have complete use of his hands now. According to the news report that I saw, doctors have told him it might take up to two years for the damage to heal. Since he has been home he has tried once to file a complaint at a recruiting center in Everett, WA. and this failed.

This is absolutely sick and appalling. I watched this report on Friday and began to get a sick feeling in my stomach as he recalled what had happened to him and showed off his scarred wrists. Then they showed the video he took once he reached Basra and you could see the damage done. Not only did he have to endure physical torture he says he was barely fed while he was imprisoned and he was refused medical treatment.

When is this going to stop?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Propaganda Machine

This is cross posted at The Pacific Daily .

So I haven’t had a chance to cover the “Jeff Gannon” story, but basically Mr. “Gannon” (since the story broke we’ve found out his real name is James Guckert) worked for Talon News, which is a pseudo-news agency. Talon is owned and operated by the Republican PAC GOPUSA. Anyway “Gannon” has been attending Presidential Press Conferences and White House Briefings for over a year and a half now. During the President’s January 26th Press Conference Gannon asked the President this question:
"Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy." He continued, "[Minority Leader] Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet, in the same breath, they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you said you're going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"

Reid never said anything about soup lines. “Gannon” has since said that he heard Rush Limbaugh claim that Reid had said this and he used that for his question.

The fact that “Gannon” was attending press conferences is bewildering. His only “journalistic training” includes attending a Leadership Institute Broadcast School of Journalism seminar, run by Republican Morton Blackwell. This was a two day event and cost $50 for anyone to attend. Beyond his “credentials”, many are wondering how the hell he was allowed in to the press conferences using a fake name. If this just slipped by security then there are major security issues that need to be addressed at the White House. I find it hard to believe that he was slipping past the security checks with a fake ID. The White House claims that they did not know him, but the President calls him out by name during the press conference and it is well known that only certain questions are addressed during press conferences in an effort to stay on message.

Since the story broke “Gannon” (Guckert) was not talking; until now .

If you just believe in something enough eventually it becomes true; at least to you.
"I asked a question at a White House press briefing and this is what happened to me," Guckert told The News Journal on Wednesday after announcing his resignation. "If this is what happens to me, what reporter is safe?"

Is he missing something? He is not a reporter! He was merely posing as a reporter. Working for some pseudo-news company (propaganda machine) and attending a two day journalism seminar doesn’t make you a reporter. Real reporters don’t get “information” from the Rush Limbaugh program.

When you’ve got nothing else, just claim the “liberal media bias”. I’m sure he learned this at the Leadership Institute Broadcast School of Journalism.
"There are people out there who will turn people's lives inside out," Guckert said. "They tried to intimidate me, punish me. Then they tried to embarrass me, and they've done a pretty good job of that."

How can he possibly say that when he was a part of a conservative media conspiracy?

All of this along with the recent revelations of “journalists” getting paid by the administration to push the White House agenda raises more questions about the administration engaging in propaganda.

The Democrats have been making comparisons to the ’94 midterms and how they need to learn from what Newt Gingrich was able to accomplish during that time in order to take back the Congress and eventually the White House. This is the perfect opportunity. This has become a full-fledged scandal and some Democrat needs to lead the charge to investigate how the administration is manipulating the media.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Budget Plan Will Raise Energy Costs in Northwest

This is cross posted at The Pacific Daily .

The budget that President Bush put forth yesterday would likely raise electricity rates in the Northwest by 20 percent in each of the next three years. The plan calls for Bonneville Power Administration to begin selling electricity at market rates instead of wholesale. Currently BPA, under federal law, must sell electricity at wholesale rates.
Without Bonneville's wholesale prices to hold down market rates, it's possible that the market would escalate rampantly, causing even more hardship for the region, Harding said.

Bush would like to make his tax cuts permanent but you have to pay down the deficit somehow.
The extra money that Bonneville would make under the plan would go directly to the U.S. Treasury Department to pay down the deficit, which is expected to be around $400 billion this year.

One official said the proposal was worth considering since it would aid in this nations economic recovery.

How about repealing those tax cuts? That would definitely aid in recovering the nation’s economy. A proposal, such as this, is no different than raising taxes. It affects everyone to some degree, but will be more of a hardship for those who are already struggling to get by. These are the same people that are not benefiting from the Bush tax cuts. These are the same people that live paycheck to paycheck. These are the same people that can’t afford quality health insurance.

The article in the Seattle Times only addresses one instance like this. The issue with Bonneville Power Administration will only affect those of us in the Northwest, but this raises more questions. Namely, is this being proposed elsewhere in the country

Monday, February 07, 2005

Fuzzy Math

This is cross posted at The Pacific Daily .

President Bush’s budget was presented to Congress today. The budget shows the federal deficit cut in half by 2009. In this case half is relative. The budget cuts the projected deficit of last year, not this year, in half.
It is the 2004 deficit that Bush is promising to cut in half, but he's not starting with the actual 2004 deficit of $412 billion.

Instead, his benchmark is the projected $521-billion deficit that his Office of Management and Budget estimated a year ago, when the fiscal year was four months old. Using half of that figure, Bush's goal is to reach a deficit of $260.5 billion.

If Bush were to start with the actual 2004 figure, his goal would be a deficit of $206 billion — $54.5 billion more.

Oh by the way, half does not mean half the dollars.
Bush proposes to cut the deficit in half not in dollars but as a share of the economy. If the economy grows, as is projected, then the deficit will decline as a share of the economy even if it does not shrink by a single dollar.

The 2004 deficit was 4.5% of the economy. So in fiscal 2009 it must be 2.2% or less. That is exactly the average share of the last 43 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

This is just playing with the numbers to say that the deficit will be cut in half. It is all in how you perceive what should be considered part of the deficit. Not only is Bush shaping the math to benefit him, he is leaving out key items. His budget proposal doesn’t take into account any more money needed for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. It also doesn’t address the money that would need to be borrowed to implement his hair-brain social security reform.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

No On Gonzales, Like We Needed Another Reminder

This is cross posted at The Pacific Daily .

The Senate debated today on whether to confirm Alberto Gonzales to be the next Attorney General. Republicans continue to talk about Gonzales’ “great story” and how he has overcome many obstacles in life. This isn’t a lifetime achievement award. Yeah, Gonzales’ “story” is one of great triumph, but the most pressing issues are:

Is he qualified? No.
Did he endorse torture? Yes.
And did he completely and honestly answer questions that were asked by the Judiciary Committee? No.

Still the rift runs deep in the Senate and it looks like Democrats can’t muster the votes to stop his confirmation . According to the DailyKos , Senator Reid plans to vote no and this makes it roughly 30 Democrats that don’t believe in torture.

As if they needed another reminder of the backlash that has occurred due to the torture at places like Abu Ghraib? An Iraqi militant group has captured another US soldier. The group released a photo and a statement on their website.
"God willing, we will behead him if our female and male prisoners are not released from US prisons within the maximum period of 72 hours from the time this statement has been released," the statement said.

The claim has not been verified.

Some would argue that this kind of thing would have happened whether or not the torture occurred but our acts have taken the ability to condemn torture out of our hands and given the militants more of a means to justify their actions.

Troubled Youth

This is cross posted at The Pacific Daily .

Okay, here is a definite sign that I’m getting old. Generations before mine have accused us as being lazy and uninformed, but this really scares me.

The way many high-school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.

It turns out the First Amendment is a second-rate issue to many of those nearing their own adult independence, according to a study of high-school attitudes released yesterday.

The original amendment to the Constitution is the cornerstone of the way of life in the United States, promising citizens the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly.

Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high-school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.

I’m going to repeat that last sentence because it is very important, “Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.” What are they thinking? I wasn’t the most informed teenager and I could always work towards being a better informed citizen, but this just reeks of sheer ignorance.

Maybe they think this way because they are confused as to what is currently legal and what isn’t.
Three in four students said flag burning is illegal. It's not. About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet. It can't.

I don’t want to lay all of the blame on the students. The glaring problem here is that schools are not doing their part when it comes to teaching history and social/political sciences. Most kids in high school don’t really care about history and how it might relate to current events. They need teachers and curriculum that will teach them the importance of the Bill of Rights and the importance of being informed on issues. They need to understand that being informed does not just include watching the news every night, but entails an understanding of the issues. The best way to understand how current events may affect the future is to realize how they relate to history. This stuff is all very boring to teenagers and that is where schools, teachers, and parents need to be involved. These are the people that can help convince high school students of the importance of being an informed citizen.

I’m going to stop ranting now. I’m beginning to sound like my grandfather.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Bush’s Secret Health Care Plan

While all of the public attention has been on Social Security since the election, it seems that the Bush Administration is quietly planning to overhaul the health care system . Are we being ambushed?
Emboldened by their success at the polls, the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress believe they have a new opportunity to move the nation away from the system of employer-provided health insurance that has covered most working Americans for the last half-century.

In its place, they want to erect a system in which workers — instead of looking to employers for health insurance — would take personal responsibility for protecting themselves and their families: They would buy high-deductible "catastrophic" insurance policies to cover major medical needs, then pay routine costs with money set aside in tax-sheltered health savings accounts.

The first step to this was the creation of HSAs. They were added to the Medicare prescription drug bill in 2003. Bush has also been throwing out the idea of eliminating the deduction for businesses that offer health care to employees.

The health care system in this country is in shambles, but putting the onus on the employee to take care of their own health insurance is not going to fix the problem. There is already a problem in this country with people shunning needed medical attention because they can’t afford the deductible or to pay their percentage of the bill. With the plan that Republicans are talking about this would only get worse because the individual would have to pay for that out their own “savings account”.

What the Republicans seem to be missing here is that there are two major problems with health care. 1) It has become too expensive. 2) Not enough people are covered. We need to find a way to lower costs and insure more people. A plan like this one won’t do either. It will only shift the burden to the individual, in an attempt to benefit business.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this though. Most Republicans that I’ve gotten to know seem to only look out for themselves. They believe that if you can’t afford a place to live or insurance it’s your own fault. They don’t believe in social programs that could better the community as a whole. This proposal doesn’t deviate from that idea.

Ann Coulter's An Idiot

I know I'm not saying anything too outrageous here. Let's face it, she seems to be as good at making herself look like an ass as Condi Rice is at making herself look like a liar. Who am I kidding, they're both asses and liars.

So I don't think Ann is going to be teaching Canadian History anytime soon. In an interview with Bob McKeown, Coulter insisted that Canada sent troops to Vietnam to help the US. You can watch the Quicktime video here .

This is just proof of her clear incompetence. It's really great!