* The Stench of Torture ~ will not dissipate with Bush’s exit – Barack Obama has stated emphatically that he will end any use of torture by the USA. Human rights groups, constitutional scholars and citizens have called for the next administration to prosecute those who authorized or used harsh interrogation techniques. “But two Obama advisers said there's little — if any — chance that the incoming president's Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage.” Having closely followed the actions by the Bush administration and the use of torture, actions contrary to national and international law, I would like to see those who authorized and then lied about it come under scrutiny. Many believe that the US should not look back as Obama changes policy. What about after Obama? If Bush could authorize the use of torture so could a future president. It is obvious that safeguards are not in place to prevent the use of torture. It should not be an option for ANY administration. At the least, America should enact laws that unequivocally prevent any president or U.S. agency from utilizing a policy of torture. That being said, regardless of how the Obama administration decides to deal with abuses by George W. Bush or, should Bush grant broad immunity to perpetrators of abuse before he leaves office, the international community still could address the subject.
It remains to be seen whether there will be an effort to bring war crimes charges against Americans responsible for and involved in torture in Iraq, Guantanamo and secret prisons the U.S. government sanctioned around the world. There is a just-released report by the Human Rights Center/Center for Constitutional Rights report titled “Guantanamo and Its Aftermath.” Former DC Appellate Judge Patricia Wald, a judge at the international trial for Serbians accused of committing war crimes against Bosnian Muslims, compared the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody to the treatment Bosnians received at the hands of their Serbian captors. And from the web site ThinkProgress.org: “Last June, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (ret.), the Army general who led the investigation into prisoner abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, also accused the Bush administration of committing “war crimes” and called for those responsible to be held to account.”
The report noted above is 136 pages in length. Even if one only reads the Forward and Executive Summary one will find a chilling condemnation of the policies invoked by the Bush administration to deal with the aftermath of 9/11 attacks. It is a vision that no sentient American in my lifetime could have envisioned. I was especially struck with the innocent lives destroyed. I would hope that Americans are struck with a sense of the loss of innocence. The Forward concludes, “We, as a nation, must not only remember our past but strive not to repeat it. This report makes an invaluable start in that direction.”
* In Case of Emergency 1 ~ a simple yet very intelligent idea – A reader sent me notice of an idea conceived by a paramedic that is growing in popularity. Most of us have cell phones. If we were to be injured in an accident or unexpectedly taken ill, emergency personnel would want to alert someone to our situation. To avoid the need to search through a large number of entries in the phone’s address book there is an alternative. Add to the address file “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) and the telephone number of the person you want to be contacted. If there is more than one person or phone number, enter ICE 1, ICE 2, and so on. This is an idea you may want to share with friends and family.
* In Case of Emergency 2 – If you just accidentally swallowed poison and need to regurgitate, watch this video of the members of the U.S. Senate giving a standing ovation to Alaskan Republican Senator Ted Stevens. Stevens is not returning to the Senate because he lost his re-election bid. Even if Stevens had won the election he very probably would have been expelled from the Senate because he recently was convicted in a federal court on 7 felony counts. This is the man who porked huge amounts of federal money for Alaska and he was the legislative architect for the Bridge to Nowhere, while using his legislative power for financial gain for himself, members of his family and friends and associates. And our illustrious Senators gave him a standing ovation, which happens to be against their own Senate rules. Applauding a low-life power abuser and convicted felon is not the message that I want to hear from legislators. It does not bode well for ethics reform or the responsible leadership that the American people crave. Republican losses over the last two election cycles have made this very clear. The Good Ol’ Boy Club has gotten very old. More need to be replaced, including a covey of Democrats.
* Derriere Orifice of the Week ~ say hello to Newt Gingrich – Appearing on FOX News (of course) Gingrich was criticizing those individuals protesting the loss of the right of gay couples in California to marry. Gingrich said, "I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion." I find Gingrich’s comments disingenuous, hypocritical and misleading.
Recall that it was Gingrich and his Republican Party that consummated a marriage with religious-right fundamentalists attempting to tell Americans how to conduct their lives. I see no evidence of people with a gay lifestyle either attempting to or, by example, influencing anyone to be gay. The gay community does not proselytize. It is seeking its own civil rights, in opposition to the likes of Mike Huckabee who pronounce that gay rights and civil rights are totally different. What is Fascist are Gingrich and his tight-assed brown shirts spewing untruthful propaganda and misinformation. Has anyone seen evidence of gay violence or harassment? More than half of the American people are aware of Gingrich and company’s dangerous band of blowhards. Once a few million more Americans wake up to the uncivil attacks on and the denial of civil rights to the gay community, people like Gingrich will find limited access to mainstream media and be relegated to the increasingly irrelevant Pat Robertson’s Holier than Thou TV infomercials.
* Knowing your limitations – “Congratulations” to Fred Thompson. Following the failure of his somnambulant presidential bid he has decided to again leave politics and return to acting. I suggest that his best chance to earn an Oscar or Emmy would be playing the role of Rip Van Winkle.
* Goodbye and good riddance – Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott is retiring in February. Under his management the largest retailer in this country honed the business model for low wages and low benefits, resulting in many Wal-Mart employees requiring public assistance. Wal-Mart is one of the models for sourcing goods and services overseas that has contributed to the weakness of our economy. Recall that Wal-Mart opposed more diligent inspection of containers as they enter our borders. A container destined for Wal-Mart enters the U.S. every 45 seconds. U.S. national security does not stand in the way of the Wal Mart bottom line. The bottom line is that under Mr. Scott, Wal Mart was a winner on Wall Street but quite damaging to Main Street.
* Is the Bush administration getting in touch with the needs of Americans? ~ Nah! – In an exceptional move the administration has agreed to support the extension of unemployment benefits as unemployment claims reach a 16-year high and unemployment reaches a 25-year high. Otherwise, it is nasty business as usual. The Bush presidency continues to undermine environmental safety, broaden the destruction of public lands and national parks, and further endanger endangered species as it pimps for business interests that are not in the interest of the American people. President George W. and co-conspirators in his administration are making every effort to reduce regulation and constrictions on oil, gas, mining, fishing, timber and financial industries while promoting the development of shale oil, the dirtiest fuel on the planet. America does not need enemies from afar. Our hands are full with the enemies from within.
The situation was best summed up by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee when he told the Wall Street Journal, “This administration will stop at nothing to jam through as many reckless proposals as they can before the clock runs out.” A glimmer of hope for the health of planet Earth is Barack Obama’s promise to make a decisive break with George Bush on the environment … promising a "new chapter in America's leadership on climate change.” These developments bring to mind a question I have often asked over the last seven years. “Why does George W. Bush hate America? I do not accept the conventional wisdom alibi that he is well-intentioned but ill-advised. The damage he has rendered is too widespread, too deep and well beyond the pale of mere incompetence.
* What have we learned in two millennia? A reader asked this question, accompanied by the following quote:
"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."
Cicero, 55 BC