People Get Ready

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Archive for July, 2005

Starting bids at a dozen nutria for Jenna and Barbara

Posted by schroeder915 on July 31, 2005

The Week (8/8/2005) speculated that Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor, a local councillor, may have business to discuss with former President Clinton on his official visit to Kenya. In a letter to the White House back in the year 2000, Chepkurgor offered Clinton 20 cattle and 40 goats in return for Chelsea Clinton’s hand in marriage.

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The decline of the U.S. economy

Posted by schroeder915 on July 31, 2005

In yet another article by Paul Craig Roberts on CounterPunch about the dramatic changes to the U.S. economy wrought by globalization:

In recent years I have stressed the erosion of the conditions on which the case for free trade rests. Production functions based on acquired knowledge lack the uniqueness required for the operation of comparative advantage, and the international mobility of capital and technology allows those factors of production to seek absolute advantage abroad in skilled, disciplined, low-cost labor. The real conditions in the world today no longer conform to the assumptions of free trade theory.

Thus, once world socialism collapsed and the highspeed Internet was up and running, first world living standards were no longer protected by unique accumulations of capital and technology. The changed conditions made it possible for American companies to use employees drawn from large excess supplies of foreign labor as cheaper substitutes for American employees.

Using the nanotech sector to illustrate his point, Roberts argues that it isn’t enough for the United States to have a strong research sector, where new ideas are spawned and patented (although the ability of the US education system to provide an ample supply of well-trained minds should be questioned as well). Most of the money is not in intellectual property. It’s in the utilization of intellectual property:

An equally important part of intellectual property is manufacturing process knowledge-the manufacturing ability to turn a new principle into salable things. Without the ability to commercialize and manufacture products based on the new ideas, we not only lose the ability to capture most of the economic rewards but also eventually lose the ability to think up the ideas. Without process knowledge from manufacturing, it is difficult to recognize promising nanotech innovations.

Part of the solution to redress the imbalance being created by cheap labor overseas and capital mobility, argues Roberts, is “to abandon the income tax and replace it with a value-added or sales tax or even tariffs.” Roberts argues that the U.S. income tax places a burden on U.S. manufacturers that foreign manufacturers don’t have:

[The U.S. income tax] imposes no appreciable tax burden on foreign goods and services sold in the US but imposes a heavy tax burden on US producers of goods and services regardless of whether they are sold within the US or exported to other countries.

It’s beyond my scope of understanding to remark on Roberts’ radical conclusion. I simply offer it as food for thought.

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The Bush administration defends its right to torture

Posted by schroeder915 on July 30, 2005

Sgt. Santos A. Cardona and Sgt. Michael J. Smith are being court-martialed for inappropriate use of dogs against prisoners at Abu Ghraib. They claim they were just following orders when a dog bit a naked detainee while his cell was being searched. They might have a point:

The Washington Post (Thursday):

Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller told top officers during an advisory visit to Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison that they needed to get military working dogs for use in interrogations, and he advocated procedures then in use at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.

Maj. David DiNenna, the top military police operations officer at Abu Ghraib in 2003, said that when Miller and a team of Guantanamo Bay officials visited in early September 2003, Miller advocated mirroring the Cuba operation.

“We understood he was sent over by the secretary of defense,” DiNenna testified by telephone. DiNenna said Miller and his team were at Abu Ghraib “to take their interrogation techniques they used at Guantanamo Bay and incorporate them into Iraq.”

The use of military dogs to exploit fear in detainees was approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use on a specific important detainee in Cuba in late 2002 and early 2003.

“He was going to talk to [Lt. Gen. Ricardo S.] Sanchez and get us the resources we needed.” …

The dogs … arrived a few weeks later.

A day earlier, the NY Times reported on documents obtained by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – himself a former military lawyer – which show that:

Senior military lawyers lodged vigorous and detailed dissents in early 2003 as an administration legal task force concluded that President Bush had authority as commander in chief to order harsh interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, newly disclosed documents show.

Despite the military lawyers’ warnings, the task force concluded that military interrogators and their commanders would be immune from prosecution for torture under federal and international law because of the special character of the fight against terrorism.

From the same NY Times story, here are some of the statements by military lawyers made to the Bush administration’s legal task force in early 2003:

  • Several of the “more extreme interrogation techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law” as well as military law. … The use of many of the interrogation techniques “puts the interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusations abroad” (Air Force, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives).
  • While detainees at Guantánamo Bay might not qualify for international protections, “Will the American people find we have missed the forest for the trees by condoning practices that, while technically legal, are inconsistent with our most fundamental values?” (Rear Adm. Michael F. Lohr, the Navy’s chief lawyer).
  • All the military lawyers believed the harsh interrogation regime could have adverse consequences for American service members. General Sandkuhler said that the Justice Department “does not represent the services; thus, understandably, concern for service members is not reflected in their opinion” (Brig. Gen. Kevin M. Sandkuhler, a senior Marine lawyer).
  • The approach recommended by the Justice Department “will open us up to criticism that the U.S. is a law unto itself” (Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Romig, the Army’s top-ranking uniformed lawyer).

In a Friday editorial, the Washington Post clarified the role of Miller and of the Bush administration in not just authorizing torture methods that violate both the Geneva Conventions and U.S. military code, but in covering up their roles in continuing to use the same torture methods and then covering up their authorization of those methods:

In statements to investigators and in sworn testimony to Congress last year, Gen. Miller denied that he recommended the use of dogs for interrogation, or that they had been used at Guantanamo. “No methods contrary to the Geneva Convention were presented at any time by the assistance team that I took to [Iraq],” he said under oath on May 19, 2004. Yet Army investigators reported to Congress this month that, under Gen. Miller’s supervision at Guantanamo, an al Qaeda suspect named Mohamed Qahtani was threatened with snarling dogs, forced to wear women’s underwear on his head and led by a leash attached to his chains — the very abuse documented in the Abu Ghraib photographs.

The court evidence strongly suggests that Gen. Miller lied about his actions, and it merits further investigation by prosecutors and Congress. But the Guantanamo commander was not acting on his own: The interrogation of Mr. Qahtani, investigators found, was carried out under rules approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Dec. 2, 2002. After strong protests from military lawyers, the Rumsfeld standards — which explicitly allowed nudity, the use of dogs and shackling — were revised in April 2003. Yet the same practices were later adopted at Abu Ghraib, at least in part at the direct instigation of Gen. Miller.

Meanwhile (here we go again), rather than take a principled stand for human rights and the better aspirations of the United States, with a few exceptions, congressional Republicans have placed themselves in the indefensible position of defending the right of the Bush administration to use torture.

It would be hard to find (in the mainstream press), but thanks to Daily KOS and the ACLU, we now know that Bill Frist postponed debate on the $442 billion defense authorization bill (in a time of war) because a few wild Republicans are drafting an amendment that:

…includes provisions to bar the military from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross; prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees; and use only interrogation techniques authorized in a new Army field manual.

The NY Times last week featured an article on Dick Cheney’s lobbying to kill the amendment, threatening Republicans that President Bush would veto the defense appropriations bill if it contained any language against abuse, and today featured an opinion on the White House’s obtuseness with regard to condemning abuse.

The three Republicans are John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee chairman. They have complained that the Pentagon has failed to hold senior officials and military officers responsible for the abuses that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, and at other detention centers in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, NPR’s Morning Edition featured John McCain’s remark that the provision is only doing what the U.S. military code already requires.

How unusual that, in a time of war, the Senate would leave in suspense military appropriations for the coming fiscal year.

Oh yeah, before Frist postponed the Pentagon budget vote, he inserted an NRA-friendly amendment protecting the gun industry from lawsuits. I guess that pretty much demonstrates that politics trumps defense among rank-and-file Republicans.

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D’oh…oh yeah, it’s freedom we’re defending

Posted by schroeder915 on July 29, 2005

NY Times:

An Algerian man received 22 years for plotting to bomb the Los Angeles airport on the eve of the millennium. …

U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said the successful prosecution of Ahmed Ressam should serve not only as a warning to terrorists, but as a statement to the Bush administration about its terrorism-fighting tactics.

“We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel,” he said Wednesday. “The message to the world from today’s sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart.”

He added that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have made Americans realize they are vulnerable to terrorism and that some believe “this threat renders our Constitution obsolete … If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.”

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D’oh…oh yeah, it’s freedom we’re defending

Posted by schroeder915 on July 29, 2005

NY Times:

An Algerian man received 22 years for plotting to bomb the Los Angeles airport on the eve of the millennium. …

U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said the successful prosecution of Ahmed Ressam should serve not only as a warning to terrorists, but as a statement to the Bush administration about its terrorism-fighting tactics.

“We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel,” he said Wednesday. “The message to the world from today’s sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart.”

He added that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have made Americans realize they are vulnerable to terrorism and that some believe “this threat renders our Constitution obsolete … If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Blood in the oil

Posted by schroeder915 on July 28, 2005

David Morse for Common Dreams:

The ink is scarcely dry on oil deals signed between the Islamist dictatorship that rules Sudan from the northern capital, Khartoum, and an eager bevy of oil companies from China, India, Japan, and Britain – even as the genocide continues full tilt in the western region known as Darfur. …

Oil rigs are now drilling on land seized from black African farmers – who have been killed, raped, and driven off their land by their own government through its proxy militias, known as Janjaweed, in a campaign of ethnic cleansing now in its third year. …

Oil companies are deeply complicit. Attacks by Janjaweed, often with aerial support from Sudan government forces, have cleared the way for pipelines and drilling. Oil company roads and bridges are used by government troops to carry the genocide into more remote communities in Darfur. …

American oil companies are not visibly part of the scramble, because in 1997 the Clinton administration added Sudan to the list of states sponsoring terrorism ….

The article continues to describe how Sudan oil is the reason why the Bush administration Bush administration lobbied to weaken the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, so that U.S. oil companies can get into the action.

Unfortunately:

The only thing standing in the president’s way is the ugly fact of genocide and the ability of the American people to make it politically unacceptable for our president to avert his eyes from what is happening in Darfur.

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Post ‘yer WSMB complaints right here

Posted by schroeder915 on July 28, 2005

I don’t know why they can’t seem to find their way over to WSMB to register their complaints about the change to progressive Air America programming, but I’m happy to see that, like fly paper, PGR is trapping a lot of right wingers doing searches for WSMB.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post ‘yer WSMB complaints right here

Post ‘yer WSMB complaints right here

Posted by schroeder915 on July 28, 2005

I don’t know why they can’t seem to find their way over to WSMB to register their complaints about the change to progressive Air America programming, but I’m happy to see that, like fly paper, PGR is trapping a lot of right wingers doing searches for WSMB.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Don’t get squeezed by big cable

Posted by schroeder915 on July 28, 2005

If you’re fed up with constant cable rate hikes, poor service and a lack of local and independent programming, the FCC needs to hear from you — right now.

The FCC may allow the three largest cable companies to control up to 90 percent of the cable TV and broadband market in the United States.

Remember that in most markets, cable companies operate as monopolies. The only way to get them to respond to your concerns is to voice your opinion and apply pressure on local, state, and federal officials.

Free Press has a form you can use to send the following comment directly to the FCC (the deadline for comment is August 8):

Giant cable companies should not be permitted to grow larger. Further consolidation in the cable industry is a clear violation of horizontal ownership rules that must be re-established to serve the public interest.

The concentration of power and control over distribution of media is a growing problem in this country. Though we have more channels available than ever before, they are under the operation of a handful of giant corporations.

If Comcast and Time Warner are allowed to merge with Adelphia, the two companies will control nearly 50 percent of the national market. This level of concentration in the cable industry will lead to higher consumer rates and lower quality service.

Since passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the “deregulation” of cable, consumers have seen their rates jump an average of 59 percent — with some areas experiencing even more dramatic increases.

We are required to buy channels we don’t want or need because the cable operators bundle them together. The quality of customer service often reflects the fact that cable television is not a competitive market.

Meanwhile, the cost of cable modem service remains out of reach for many households, holding constant for years and selectively underserving rural and low-income Americans. The American people are watching the digital divide widen even as the need for access to high-speed networks increases.

Cable companies have become less responsive to the needs and requirements of communities. The quality of public accountability in local franchise agreements has declined, as big companies leverage their power to squeeze local governments.

In many communities, the truly independent sources of local news, information and culture come from the public channels produced at the local access centers. Unfortunately, local channels lack the resources to produce the programming that citizens want and need.

The last thing we need is to reward the anti-competive actions of cable giants by permitting greater consolidation in ownership, reducing competition, and encouraging more of the same.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Don’t get squeezed by big cable

Don’t get squeezed by big cable

Posted by schroeder915 on July 28, 2005

If you’re fed up with constant cable rate hikes, poor service and a lack of local and independent programming, the FCC needs to hear from you — right now.

The FCC may allow the three largest cable companies to control up to 90 percent of the cable TV and broadband market in the United States.

Remember that in most markets, cable companies operate as monopolies. The only way to get them to respond to your concerns is to voice your opinion and apply pressure on local, state, and federal officials.

Free Press has a form you can use to send the following comment directly to the FCC (the deadline for comment is August 8):

Giant cable companies should not be permitted to grow larger. Further consolidation in the cable industry is a clear violation of horizontal ownership rules that must be re-established to serve the public interest.

The concentration of power and control over distribution of media is a growing problem in this country. Though we have more channels available than ever before, they are under the operation of a handful of giant corporations.

If Comcast and Time Warner are allowed to merge with Adelphia, the two companies will control nearly 50 percent of the national market. This level of concentration in the cable industry will lead to higher consumer rates and lower quality service.

Since passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the “deregulation” of cable, consumers have seen their rates jump an average of 59 percent — with some areas experiencing even more dramatic increases.

We are required to buy channels we don’t want or need because the cable operators bundle them together. The quality of customer service often reflects the fact that cable television is not a competitive market.

Meanwhile, the cost of cable modem service remains out of reach for many households, holding constant for years and selectively underserving rural and low-income Americans. The American people are watching the digital divide widen even as the need for access to high-speed networks increases.

Cable companies have become less responsive to the needs and requirements of communities. The quality of public accountability in local franchise agreements has declined, as big companies leverage their power to squeeze local governments.

In many communities, the truly independent sources of local news, information and culture come from the public channels produced at the local access centers. Unfortunately, local channels lack the resources to produce the programming that citizens want and need.

The last thing we need is to reward the anti-competive actions of cable giants by permitting greater consolidation in ownership, reducing competition, and encouraging more of the same.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Don’t get squeezed by big cable