Now Cough

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Not Inhumane"

originally uploaded by barthjg.
From The New York Times (reg required)
... soldiers at Guantánamo began strapping some of the detainees into "restraint chairs" to force-feed them and isolate them from one another after finding that some were deliberately vomiting or siphoning out the liquid they had been fed.

"It was causing problems because some of these hard-core guys were getting worse," General Craddock said at a breakfast meeting with reporters. Explaining the use of the restraint chairs, he added, "The way around that is you have to make sure that purging doesn't happen."

After The New York Times reported Feb. 9 that the military had begun using restraint chairs and other harsh methods, military spokesmen insisted that the procedures for dealing with the hunger strikes at Guantánamo had not changed. They also said they could not confirm that the chairs had been used.

On Tuesday [Feb. 21,2006], General Craddock said he had reviewed the use of the restraint chairs, as had senior officials at the Department of Defense, and they concluded that the practice was 'not inhumane."

Monday, February 20, 2006

The good old 1500s

Yeah, this is America

The AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is meeting in St. Louis. And the gathering, no doubt, will be viewed as a terrorist-sympathizer cell by the Bush administration.

Dr. David Baltimore, Nobel Prize winner and one of the leaders of biotechnology and ethics in the 70s (and a guy who was accused of severe ethical lapses himself) keynoted a talk sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

It's no accident that we are seeing such an extensive suppression of scientific freedom," he said. "It's part of the theory of government now, and it's a theory we need to vociferously oppose." Far from twisting science to suit its own goals, he said, the government should be "the guardian of intellectual freedom."

But the real courage award goes to a government lawyer named Leslie Sussan who said, speaking for herself, that she saw Bush's science polices

an attack on the rule of law as a basis for self-government and democracy.

Let's see how long she is employed at HHS.

Privacy. Oh. THAT

The Los Angeles Times has an eye opening report on the privacy panel that was supposed to be in place by now at the White House. But, you know, these things take awhile Privacy Guardian Is Still a Paper Tiger (reg. required)

The members of the panel? I can't make this up:

* "The board chairwoman is Carol E. Dinkins, a Houston lawyer who was a Justice Department official in the Reagan administration. A longtime friend of the Bush family, she was the treasurer of George W. Bush's first campaign for governor of Texas, in 1994, and co-chair of Lawyers for Bush-Cheney, which recruited Republican lawyers to handle legal battles after the November 2004 election. Dinkins, a longtime partner in the Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins, where Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales once was a partner, has specialized in defending oil and gas companies in environmental lawsuits."

* "The board vice chairman is Alan Charles Raul, a Washington lawyer who first suggested the concept of a civil liberties panel in an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times in December 2001. Raul, a former Agriculture Department general counsel currently in private practice, has published a book on privacy and the digital age and is the only panel member with apparent expertise in civil liberties issues."

* "The panel's lone Democrat, Lanny J. Davis, has known Bush since the two were undergraduates at Yale. Civil liberties gr(oups regard the Washington lawyer, who worked in the Clinton White House, as likely to be a progressive voice on the panel." (NOTE: I have always found Davis an oily creep.)

* "The board also includes a conservative Republican legal icon, Washington lawyer and former Bush Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, whose wife, Barbara, died in the Sept. 11 attacks."

* "The fifth member is Francis X. Taylor, a retired Air Force general and former State Department counter-terrorism coordinator, who is chief security officer at General Electric Co."

You can't make up this stuff.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lift off

Being there

It has been 44 years Monday (Feb 20, 1962) since John Glenn took three trips around the Earth and became the first American to orbit the planet.

You cannot imagine the tension and attention paid to the event. It was one of the few times, outside of a presidential speech, that i can recall live television coverage in glorious black and white.

Sister James Bernard rolled the TV on a stand to the front of the packed 2nd grade classroom. And as the countdown headed toward the inevitable we were commanded to stand at our desks, hands folded and recite the Our Father. Talk about a clash of religion and science!

I was so excited I barely mouthed the words. What was racing through my mind was "Go!Go!"

The rocket was so crude looking, and now does appear so much smaller and fragile and risky than what we see today. Cape Canaveral (JFK would be murdered the next year) looked as desolate as a strip of scrubby beach crammed with roads and concrete.

It took hours to learn about the fears that Glenn's heatshield might be loose. All I know is how thrilling this was and how I looked forward to space launches for years afterward.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Running for Covey

Brit Hume of Fox News did a good quick first interview with Vice President Dick 'they shoot friends, don't they?' Cheney. You'll recall the announcment of the Saturday afternoon shooting didn't get revealed to 'the press' until Sunday morning. And it came not from Cheney but from the woman who owns the ranch where he and the boys were quail shooting, Mrs. Katherine Armstrong.

Relevant bits:

HUME: Now, the suspicion grows in some quarters that you -- that this was an attempt to minimize it, by having it first appear in a little paper and appear like a little hunting incident down in a remote corner of Texas.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There wasn't any way this was going to be minimized, Brit; but it was important that it be accurate. I do think what I've experienced over the years here in Washington is as the media outlets have proliferated, speed has become sort of a driving force, lots of time at the expense of accuracy. And I wanted to make sure we got it as accurate as possible, and I think Katherine was an excellent choice. I don't know who you could get better as the basic source for the story than the witness who saw the whole thing.

Charming, isn't it, that Cheney is now lecturing the press on the importance of accuracy when he and his office were leaking stories, knowingly false stories, about weapons of mass desctruction in Iraq. Churlish? Forgive moi.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: The decision about how it got out, basically, was my responsibility.

HUME: That was your call.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: That was my call.


HUME: ...when, if ever, have you discussed [the shooting] with the President?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I talked to him about it yesterday, or Monday -- first on Monday, and then on Tuesday, too. the vice president shoots someone. He talks with either Andy Card or Karl Rove on the night of the shooting, visits the guy he shot on Sunday. And doesn't talk to the president about it til...Monday.

I think I am beginning to understand the chain of command now.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dumb De Dumb Dumb

Flooding the Zone

The New York Times investigation of the 800,000 documents that Congressional investigators sifted through to determine who bungled what in response to Hurricane Katrina contains this choice quote:

Representative Thomas M. Davis, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the special House committee investigating the hurricane response, said the only level of government that performed well was the National Weather Service, which correctly predicted the force of the storm. But no one heeded the message, he said.

"The president is still at his ranch, the vice president is still fly-fishing in Wyoming, the president's chief of staff is in Maine," Mr. Davis said. "In retrospect, don't you think it would have been better to pull together? They should have had better leadership. It is disengagement."

Stasi Styling

Now, I don't want to say I actually foreshadowed what is now being revealed about the domestic surveillance stuff (see These Boots are Made for Goosesteppin' below) but the Christian Science Monitor has some mighty inneresting stuff today:

The US government is developing a massive computer system that can collect huge amounts of data and, by linking far-flung information from blogs and e-mail to government records and intelligence reports, search for patterns of terrorist activity.
The system - parts of which are operational, parts of which are still under development - is already credited with helping to foil some plots. It is the federal government's latest attempt to use broad data-collection and powerful analysis in the fight against terrorism. But by delving deeply into the digital minutiae of American life, the program is also raising concerns that the government is intruding too deeply into citizens' privacy.

Read it all