Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Gloss Over Will Not Take Part II

How Innocent Terri Schiavo And Our Constitution Got Distorted, While True Suffering Goes Ignored Every Day.

Let’s first of all, let’s examine the sincerity of The Schindler’s New Friends shall we?

Lets first get a perspective on where we begin from:

“Persistent Vegetative State” is another word for “cortical death”.

As stated in, PVS is:

“A persistent vegetative state, which sometimes follows a coma, refers to a condition in which individuals have lost cognitive neurological function and awareness of the environment but retain noncognitive function and a perserved sleep-wake cycle.

It is sometimes described as when a person is technically alive, but his/her brain is dead. However, that description is not completely accurate. In persistent vegetative state the individual loses the higher cerebral powers of the brain, but the functions of the brainstem, such as respiration (breathing) and circulation, remain relatively intact. Spontaneous movements may occur and the eyes may open in response to external stimuli, but the patient does not speak or obey commands. Patients in a vegetative state may appear somewhat normal. They may occasionally grimace, cry, or laugh.”

In 1999 Governor George W. Bush of Texas signed a law stating that a hospital has the right to cease all life support functions for a terminal patient even over the objections of parents or spouses, if it is determined that such efforts are no longer useful, or if the responsible party could no longer pay.

Last year President Bush straddled the fence when the Right To Lifers held a “Culture of Life” march in Washington DC. In an election year, instead of being there in person, he addressed the march via remote control. His presence was manifest in a PA squawkbox. He never looked better.

In 1988 Tom DeLay’s father was in an accident where he suffered a brain hemorrhage and the family was told that he had become a “vegetable”, and his organs were ceasing to function. Per the family’s agreement, a “do not resuscitate order was in effect. On December 14 of that year, Charles DeLay died.

Yet when Terri Schiavo’s tube was going to be pulled, George W. Bush got in a plane and leapt over mountains and rivers to “save” Terri’s “life”.

At the moment when Tom DeLay took up the cause to keep Terri alive he was in a heap of trouble concerning ethics violations, and election fraud, with TRMPAC and ARMPAC which allowed him to gerrymander the legislative districts in Texas to insure a Republican majority in Texas and in Congress, so he could remain Majority Leader in the House. And two of is friends Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon, are in trouble for swindling Indian tribes out of their casino money out of tens of millions of dollars. Mr. DeLay’s name was used as a lure, and he received contributions from Mr. Abramoff,

As for Bill Frist, though he was the driving force for Senate action on the Schiavo case, he was not known as someone averse to pulling the plug. Strangely, he, a heart surgeon felt qualified to do a neurology diagnosis. All by viewing a 5 minute video, from an armchair.

According to the Daily News:

“Medical ethicists like Dr. Kenneth Prager, chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, say it's ‘inappropriate’ for Frist to make an armchair diagnosis. ‘A diagnosis should be made bedside by a neurologist. He's not a neurologist, and he wasn't bedside,’ Prager said.”

And yet “Pull the Plug” Frist thought his so-called “diagnosis” for the “life” of Terri Schiavo was sufficient for him to subvert the Constitution, and cause potentially irreparable damage to our system of checks and balances.

Much hay was made by the Republicans about saving Terri’s “life” and while the alleged "Schiavo Memo's" veracity has come into question by the Right, this excerpt from it portrays clearly the sentiment that drove the congressional “heroes”.

“Teri (sic) Schiavo is subject to an order that her feeding tubes will be disconnected on March 18, 2005 at 1p.m.

The Senate needs to act this week, before the Budget Act is pending business, or Terri's family will not have a remedy in federal court.

This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.

This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.”

And if you don’t buy the authenticity of this memo, here is something you can buy, a documented recording of Tom DeLay giving a speech to the Family Research Council recorded by the Americans For the Separation Of Church and State:

"It is more than just Terri Schiavo. This is a critical issue for people in this position, and it is also a critical issue to fight that fight for life, whether it be euthanasia or abortion. I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, one thing God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo to elevate the visibility of what's going on in America. That Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks. I mean, in America that's going to happen if we don't win this fight.

"And so it's bigger than any one of us, and we have to do everything that is in our power to save Terri Schiavo and anybody else that may be in this kind of position, and let me just finish with this:

"This is exactly the kind of issue that's going on in America, that attacks against the conservative moment, against me and against many others. The point is, the other side has figured out how to win and to defeat the conservative movement, and that is to go after people personally, charge them with frivolous charges, link up with all these do-gooder organizations funded by George Soros, and then get the national media on their side. That whole syndicate that they have going on right now is for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to destroy the conservative movement. It is to destroy conservative leaders, and not just in elected office, but leading. I mean, Ed Feulner, of the Heritage Foundation today was under attack in the National Journal. This is a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in. And you need to look at this, and what's going on and participate in fighting back.”

So this is what Terri Schiavo meant to them, these great humanitarians. It was all about ginning up the base, and saving Tom DeLay’s bacon.

And if they were interested in saving lives from barbaric hospices, then will they go all over the country to stop everyone of nearly 30.000 terminations of life-sustaining care a year? Why because it is accepted that if there is a terminal condition no hope of cure, and the prolongation of attempts to sustain life are too burdensome, and render the quality of life to be unendurable, or prove to be useless, than they are discontinued.

Amazing. And these are the same people who could give a damn when 1500 American GIs and 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians were killed and the killing continues. These are the same people under whose flag people are being tortured in an American gulag like Abu Ghraib, or Camp Packhorse.

Here is an excerpt of a May 19, 2004 Dept. of the Army CID report of an incident that has gone unnoticed, and wouldn’t be noticed except for the Freedom Of Information Act request of the A.C.L.U.:

“3 This investigation was initiated upon notification that detainee Mr. Obeed Hethere RADAD was shot and killed by SPCXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX On 23 Nov 03, the investigation was closed as a final (C) under the provisions on CIDR 195-1, chapt 4-17(6) (SAC prerogative) XXXXXX was reduced to E1 and received a Chapt 10 discharge in lieu of court martial. The XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
a. CID was notified of the incident after a 15-6 determined SPCXXXXX did not follow regulations governing the use of deadly force. The notification occurred 4 days after the fact.

b. Three witness statements and SPC XXXXXXXXXX confession during the 15-6 (without rights advisement) substantiated the CID investigation and 15-6. SPC XXXXXXXX requested a lawyer when advised of his rights by the unit and CID.”

c. The delay in reporting prevented the recovery of forensic evidence specifically:

1. the projectile was not recovered from the deceased nor the scene ( although agents did conduct a CS exam upon notification)
2. no autopsy was conducted of the remains
3. the M16 rifle was not collected as evidence.”

Where was Tom DeLay to investigate that questionable incident?

My point is that if these people had any real wish be the moral Dudley Doorights of Pro Life politics and medicine, than why don’t they stop our own human rights abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop cutting Medicaid, stop trying to destroy Social Security and worry more about the quality of life between birth and death? Maybe that is not their real agenda.

These people need complete, unencumbered power. Power to do whatever they want for friends, powerful friends who can keep them in office, and show then lavish gratitude. These people need things done for them like environmental regulations repealed or defanged. Or maybe they need a less threatening SEC and other law enforcement bodies to be more accommodating to their wish to steal money. Judges tend to stand in the way of these things. They do pesky things like interpret the law without prejudice. They need judges that will do their bidding. Well, they dented the Constitution. They used Terri Schiavo to try to break the Checks and Balances system, where no one branch of government is allowed extraordinary superceding powers over the other branches. They had that in the Soviet Union, called the Politburo. Well they tried to vilify the judges, and didn’t succeed, but now we see what the next act is, open war on the judiciary.

And the tragedy is that Terri Schiavo, a real person once 15 years ago, gets distorted into some kind of cause célébre with the lives of her family contorted beyond belief. If there was a real Terri Schiavo once, no one would recognize her.

Coma and Persistent Vegetative State

DeLay's Own Tragic Crossroads

Daily News World and National Report - Heart surgeon Frist has pulled the plug regularly

ABC News - Schiavo Memo

Americans United for Separation of Church and State - Tom DeLay speech before Family Research Council

A.C.L.U. Torture FOIA

Wikipedia Article - Persistent Vegetative State

Wikipedia Article - Cerebral Cortex

New York Times article - John C. Danforth - In the Name of Politics

David Limbaugh - Schiavo Case Spurs More Christophobia

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Gloss Over Will Not Take Part I The Background

The Gloss Over Will Not Take, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

Will We Weep Over Abu Ghraib?

You see, the thing is, in the face of the Schiavo’s and the Schindler’s suffering, all you’ve offered us - is your hypocrisy fellas.

Theresa Schiavo was being prevented from something that she deserved, a death with dignity. The specifics of the case are simple, yet a long and winding road has allowed a few robbers, swindlers and shady characters to take advantage of poor Terri along the way, and prolonged a familie's suffering. And in the meantime, a nation once again has the wool pulled over it's eyes as countless others die and suffer under our flag in places CNN's cameras don't want to bother with.

Michael Schiavo has every right to end Terri's imprisonment. Her family, the Schindlers, may have had their reasons for fighting him. But that was a matter for them to decide, and for the courts to adjudicate due to their disagreement. Yet now the great noisemaking machine of the Right has found in poor Terri Schiavo, who deserves to be left in peace, a new cause celébre, and a new way to advance their agenda.

Fifteen years ago Terri, 27, married 6 years to Michael, suffered a heart attack that may have been complicated by bulimia. Lack of oxygen resulted in brain damage. She came out of her coma, but did not regain effective consciousness. At Humana Northside Hospital she was given a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) for nutrition and hydration. She is discharged from the hospital and taken to the College Park skilled care and rehabilitation facility. The court appointed Michael Schiavo her guardian with no objection from the parents.

On June 30, 1990, Terri is transferred to Bayfront Hospital for further attempts at rehabilitation. Three months later her parents, the Schindlers bring her home, but then return her 3 weeks later to College Park because they are “overwhelmed by Terri’s care needs.”

Later, in November, Michael takes Terri to California for an experimental “brain stimulator” treatment, with a “thalamic stimulator implant” in her brain. In January of ’91, the Schiavos return to Florida, where Terri is put in the Mediplex Rehabilitation Center for 24-hour care.

In July of that year, Terri is taken to Sable Palms skilled care facility where she gets unending neurological testing, and for the next three years, regular and aggressive speech & occupational therapy. In August of 1992, Terri Schiavo wins $250,000 in a medical malpractice settlement with one of her physicians. A month earlier, her parents have stopped living together.

In November of ’92 the Schiavos win more than $1 million from another of Terri’s doctors. After attorney’s fees, and other expenses, Michael gets about $300,000, and about $750,000 is put in a trust fund specifically for Terri’s care.

On February 14, 1993 Michael and Terri’s parents have a fight about her therapy. Michael claims that they want a share of the settlement.

In 1998 Michael Schiavo petitions a court to have his wife's feeding tube removed. In February 2000 Circuit Judge George Greer allows Terri’s feeding tube to be removed.

On April 24, 2001 the tube is removed, but reinserted two days later by Florida Circuit Court Judge Frank Quesada. Later, in October the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issues an indefinite stay to hear the case.

In 2002, three doctors -- two chosen by Michael Schiavo and one chosen by the court -- testify that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state without hope of recovery. Two doctors chosen by the Schindlers say she can recover. Judge Greer once again allows the feeding tube to be removed but stays the order for another appeal.

After his previous ruling is upheld in 2003, Judge Greer orders Terri’s feeding tube to be removed. This is done for the second time on October 15. For some reason, Florida Governor Jeb Bush sees fit to intervene on behalf of the Schindlers. Six days later the Florida Legislature passes “Terri’s Law” allowing Gov. Jeb Bush to stay the order and reinsert the tube. Two hours later he does so.

October 27 of that year Michael give an interview on “Larry King Live” where he tells Larry that “This is Terri's wish. And I'm going to follow that wish, if it's the last thing I can do for Terri. I love Terri deeply. And I'm going to follow it up for Terri.” When asked how she could make that kind of decision at 25 he said, It was a comment from watching certain programs. She said, we were watching some programs, and she says, I don't want anything artificial like that. I don't want any tubes. Don't let me live like that. I don't want to be a burden to anybody. She's also made comments to other people about different stories.”

In 2004 the Supreme Court of Florida declares "Terri's Law" unconstitutional. Jeb appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. On January 24, the Supremes reject the appeal. Trial judge gives March 18th for removing the tube. The Schindlers file for a divorce on behalf of their daughter but Judge Greer rejects the motion. They appeal, but it is denied. A House panel subpoenas for Terri, Michael and others, but the trial judge blocks the move. The tube is removed for the third time on March 18. The Supreme Court rejects an appeal by the House to intervene. Michael’s attorney, George Felos, holds the subpoena served on Michael.

On March 21, due to the influence of Rep Tom DeLay, and Senator Bill Frist, The House and the Senate pass a one time only bill that transfers case jurisdiction to a U.S. District Court. The House wanted a wider more permanent bill, but the Senate wouldn’t pass it. President Bush flies all the way from Crawford to sign it into law.

After U.S. District Judge James Whittemore denies the Schindlers' emergency request to have the feeding tube reinserted, the Schindlers appeal to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, but on March 23, that court denies their request for an emergency ruling. The Schindlers file a late night appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court again refuses to review the case.

Jeb Bush asks Greer to transfer Terri Schiavo to the state's Department of Children and Families, to investigate claims of domestic abuse. Greer denies that request. March 25, back at District Court, Whittemore, denies another request from the Schindlers for an emergency order to reinsert their daughter's feeding tube. The Schindlers immediately go to the appeals court in Atlanta who also deny the request.

On the 26th, Greer, turns down an appeal by the Schindlers to give their daughter fluids so they could continue examining her responsiveness. And once again the Florida Supreme Court dismisses the bid to have Terri’s feeding tube reinserted. The Schindlers are running out of legal options.

On March 29, Attorney David Gibbs files an emergency petition for the Schindlers with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, contending that in rejections of previous bids to reinsert Terri’s feeding tube the federal judges have violated a Supreme Court precedent requiring them to consider the full record of the case, not just the procedural history from the state court.

Yesterday, March 30, the 11th Circuit denies the Schindler’s request to rehear the case. Jesse Jackson, of all people supports the Schindlers.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has jurisdiction over emergency appeals from Florida, Georgia and Alabama, denied a hearing from the full Supreme Court to have their daughter's feeding tube reinserted. The High Court denied an appeal to revisit the case.

All the while, the publicity mill kept rolling as the Rapture Right took advantage of it to advance their own demagogic and ruinous policies, and in the process betrayed even the tenets of the Gingrich Revolution. Yes, even the basics of Conservatism are betrayed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A "Proven Leader" For The World Bank?

Wolfowitz Magoo, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

You May As Well Let Mr. Magoo Run The World Bank According To Me, Michael Lind And Other Worried People!

The press release on Paul Wolfowitzs’ nomination for president of the World Bank calls him a proven leader. Hmm. Proven leader. I agree.

He is a proven leader.

He is a proven leader at guessing wrong for the thirty years of his entire public career. Michael Lind called him the “Mozart of ineptitude, the Einstein of incapacity.” Europeans are reacting to him with surprise and shock at Bush’s lack of consultation according to the Financial Times:

“The lack of consultation before the announcement meant that European governments - who collectively hold about 30 per cent of the votes on the bank's executive board to the US's 17 per cent - were slow to react. ‘There are going to be a lot of very unhappy people, but they may be as upset about the process as about the person,’ said one European official. ‘They were supposed to consult us and there was no consultation.’”

The Times also feels that Wolfowitzs’ nomination, if successful would make life for the World Bank in the Middle East quite miserable. And why is that?

Michael Lind in my opinion provides a very good answer. Wolfowitz according to him is not an evil man, just not necessarily clued in to reality, but full of vim, vigor, and what is the road to hell paved with? Good intentions, tunnel vision and nearsightedness! Lind likens Wolfowitz to an old classic cartoon character Mr. Magoo:

“Wolfowitz is the Mr. Magoo of American foreign policy. Like the myopic cartoon character, Wolfowitz stumbles onward blindly and serenely, leaving wreckage and confusion behind.”

In the late eighties Wolfowitz was involved very heavily in the old right canard that only a unilateral approach to the Soviet Union would win us the Cold War, an attitude that most of our allies rebelled against so strongly that Bush Sr. and Secretary of State James Baker had to disavow themselves of it. When Bush Sr. made war, he made certain that the U.S. position was well enhanced by a coalition of 15 nations before he invaded Iraq. Bush Sr. never allowed the consensus of nations to be lost by us. The Clinton administration was wise enough to see that in a post Soviet Europe, nothing could possibly be accomplished on the foreign stage without the help of our allies, and so always sought a solid coalition for any venture that they would endeavor, and always maintained a crucial respect for the United Nations. Indeed, one can say that it was through the United Nations that true disarmament of Iraq was achieved. Clinton, with Madeline Albrights’ help managed to bring about the delicate achievement of Russias’ disarmament process.

That all changed when Bush Jr. came into office. After September 11th under the influence of the neocons and most notably Mr. Wolfowitz, the emphasis shifted to the disastrous policy of the warlike unilateral tunnel-visioned single-mindedness we now have. The result is, what allies we have left feel alienated, our enemies’ anti-American messages are given credence, our military might is stretched beyond its capabilities, and we have lost the image of our unique and legendary military power.

According to Lind, this two-fisted approach makes us the Dorian Grays of the world, where we look like the enemy we are fighting:

“At least Wolfowitz and his neoconservative allies have been consistent. Since the Cold War ended, they have exaggerated American power in the same way that they exaggerated Soviet power during the Cold War. As if to prove the old adage that people come to resemble their enemies, these former cold warriors treat the United States as a twin of the Soviet Union -- a military empire contemptuous of international law, with satellites instead of allies, justifying wars in its spheres of influence by appeals to ideology ("democracy" rather than "socialism"). In the form of the concentration camps for detainees in Cuba, Iraq and elsewhere run by Donald Rumsfeld's and Wolfowitz's Pentagon, the neoconservatives even provided the United States with a gulag of its own.”

And so blissfully myopic Mr. Magoo had decided long before September 11th, that to bring order to the post Cold War world the United States would have to project unparalleled power, and without giving the world so much as a by your leave. Yet he did not realize that the real threat to the United States was not Saddam’s depleted Iraq, but al Qaeda. It was after all al Qaeda that attacked us on September 11th, not Iraq. And so when the war on terror broke out, Wolfowitz and the neocons made the crucial mistake of assuming that Iraq would be the chief threat to American war aims. And so, like another famous myopic mind, Inspector Clouseau, Wolfowitz & Co (including Bush Jr.) ignored the real villain under their nose, (al Qaeda), and went after the imagined villain – Iraq.

He told us that the occupation of Iraq would pay for itself through oil. Oil was to be the savior of the neocons’ dreams in the Middle East since it would prove that the Middle East could pay for it’s own democratization with little or no added cost to the U.S. taxpayer. And so, doing everything on the cheap, the Defense Department decided to sent too few troops in to hold Iraq, inadequately armed and armored, with a “coalition” of questionable sincerity and value, neglected to occupy and control key points of security, and allowed a well armed insurgency to grow that now threatens to instigate a civil war. Every day American, and Iraqi lives are lost, the civilians can’t even turn on a lamp or a faucet and the one thing that actually got some security, the oil infrastructure is inoperable.

The oil spigot is turned off.

Now, for the third time, Bush Jr. has asked for more than $80 billion, (this time $100 billion) for a loan. Got any spare change?

The results are that Wolfowitzs’ ideas have wasted the lives of 1500 Americans, 100,000 Iraqi civilians, and untold billions of dollars on a venture that has had shaky results at best, and instead of destroying al Qaeda, has allowed it to mutate to a more virulent strain, and gave it all of Iraq for a boot camp, along with free weapons and ammo! Laurel & Hardy would be proud!

And this is the man George W. Bush wishes to have as president of the World Bank.

Most World Bank partners, notably western European countries, are completely dismayed and dumbfounded by this choice. According to the Financial Times:

“Privately, European officials in Washington and bank staff have expressed concern that the US would put forward such a controversial candidate for the post. One concern is that his appointment would make it more difficult for the World Bank to operate effectively in the Middle East.

Many development campaigners were in no doubt. ‘We consider the choice of Wolfowitz utterly inappropriate to lead such a key institution,’ said Jeff Powell, co-ordinator of the Bretton Woods Project, a watchdog non-governmental organization. ‘This appointment will only serve to confirm suspicions that the World Bank is a tool of US foreign policy.’ "

The World Bank already suffers from a reputation of being a corporate tool that erodes national sovereignty.

A pity, because it has many good things to recommend it. The WB does represent an effort to fight poverty worldwide, and I believe that some kind of globalization is inevitable. We are more and more a global village by virtue of the global infrastructure. Next follows global interaction, cultural exchange and the entailing foreign trade and global investment. Global investment requires a global financial system. Someone has to manage that system so that everyone is treated fairly, according to international law. Someone has to manage it so that neocolonialism is not ascendant.

And that is something the World Bank must be very sensitive too. The attitude that free-market capitalism will lift all boats is full of leaks when the WB supports dictators and disastrous efforts at social engineering. The WB and its’ sister organization the IMF are accused of overzealously enforcing extraordinarily stringent standards, inordinately friendly to private business, in a policy so uniform and as to erode the sovereignty of nations. A wonderful way to control a country.

Nominating Wolfowitz does not improve the WBs’ image. In fact it only confirms anti-American suspicions. America is the largest WB member, and traditionally the president of the WB is an American. Now Bush could have picked someone far more acceptable to the rest of the world who could still have represented Americas’ interests like Christine Todd Whitman, a former state governor who proved herself a wizard at management. Wolfowitzs’ nomination only serves to confirm that George W. Bush simply wants his man to control the WB, and hence the economy of many third world countries.

Many people fear that if Wolfowitz is chosen as president the WB would be used as another weapon in the “war on terror”. The World Bank is supposed to be apolitical.

Financial Times - Shareholders' dismay at lack of consultation - Mr. Magoo goes to the World Bank

Wikipedia - World Bank

Wikipedia - Globalization

Monday, March 21, 2005

********* Whatz Dat News? *********

I have just added the webpage of the Senate Special Committee on Indian Affairs to my set of permanent links.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

********* Whatz Dat News? *********

REMINDER: Every headline on this blog, (Except ********* Whatz Dat News? *********) has a link attached to it. Feel free to click on the headlines for further information on the topic in question.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Solutions to Social Security, not "Chicken Little!"

I Don't Get It, originally uploaded by jragon.

Just A Problem, Not A Crisis!

A Letter To My Local Paper, My Congressman, Senators Clinton and Schumer:

Dear (Senator, Congressman, Editor):

Social Security is the main insurance policy of the retired of every generation. It is the debt one generation pays to the one that came before it, and raised it. To privatize, would mean that we dishonor that debt, not just for today, but for the next generation as well.

There is no crisis! Moderate adjustments can keep the system as healthy as it ever was. The most recent trustee’s report says that the system can pay all scheduled benefits until 2042. And on that year, if no changes are made, only 30% of benefits according to AARP, (a solid, patriotic organization) to bring payments in line with payroll taxes. And that is a rather liberal estimate, as far as others are concerned, who would say only 20% of benefits would be cut. Privatization represents a greater danger, than it does a solution.

Even so, rather than sit on my hands and be a “naysayer”, I propose to counter the onslaught of dangerous ideas presented by the irresponsible with a few common sense ideas that would actually work, in this universe, not in the neocon fantasy one.

First the payroll tax. A slight increase in the payroll tax by 1% for employer and employee from the current rate of 6.2% would keep Social Security solvent through 2077.

Also we could raise the cap on taxable income. The wage cap is $90.000 today. However, many people these days keep a larger portion of the income, so that the portion of income that is taxable is down to 84%. If we raise the cap on taxable income to $140,000, it would make Social Security solvent for 75 years.

It seems that the only outcome predicted by the administration that would remotely come true, is the permanence of the Bush tax cuts. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

“Over the next 75 years, the combined cost of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts (if made permanent) and the Medicare drug legislation will be at least five times as big as the Social Security shortfall.”

We can also tap the untouched resource of newly hired public employees. Edith Fierst wrote last year in the Washington Post:

“A third change would be to bring all newly hired public employees under mandatory coverage of Social Security, thereby reducing the long-range deficit by about 0.22 percent of payroll. About 6.7 million state and local government employees are currently exempt, virtually the only workers not covered by America's retirement system. Instead, these employees are covered by plans operated by their employers. For long-term employees, the benefits of state and local government plans are often greater than those paid by Social Security.

But these plans, unlike Social Security, are not portable, so employees who change jobs or employers may lose their coverage. If they become disabled before acquiring substitute coverage, they may be without disability benefits. Furthermore, the dependents of public employees exempt from Social Security, even employees fully covered by state and local government plans, are unlikely to be protected by disability, spouse or survivor benefits.”

Privatization sounds more and more like the Primrose Path. It looks and feels pleasant at first, but can only lead to perdition.

Bush thinks that private plans invested in the stock market will generate greater benefits than the traditional Social Security. But they may not. Most IRAs are already subject to market risk, and already there are less people on pension plans.

Private accounts are in the long run insecure when the market takes a plunge, or if someone makes bad investment decisions.

Unless they purchase the usually expensive annuities, retirees with private accounts run the risk of outliving benefits. Their shortened Social Security may not be enough to sustain them.

What about the administrative costs? Each account would have to be separately administered, commission need to be paid. And what of policing disreputable account brokers?

And we can’t forget that individual families have individual problems. What about divorce and death? If the owner decides not to share with the spouse, or ex, or widow, or disinherited person?

And here’s where the grandchildren pay for our selfishness. Who in this deficit spending universe will fund the transition to this wonderful paradise? Either the present retirees will have to forfeit some of their benefits, or the workers will not get as large a benefit, most likely through some kind of “revenue enhancement” (tax), or our children and grandchildren will pay with huge deficits.

The neocons say that in 2018 benefits will exceed revenues. Not true. In 1983 Congress raised the payroll cap and gained for us a surplus in the Social Security trust fund to pay for the Baby Boomers. The trust fund’s holdings will balloon to $3.7 trillion up from $1.5 trillion today. This is our nest egg boomers.

And the trust fund will work. Treasury Bonds are the strongest things on earth, not the “I.O.U.”’s that the neocons scare up. If they are good enough for Fannie Mae, they need only to be honored and redeemed.

To George Bush I have one thing to say. If you don’t like way Social Security is running now, why did you destroy the budget surplus and leave us with a deficit? We will be fine thank you. We will fix it without you if necessary.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Questionable Justice

Abu Ali Fam, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

"Extraordinary Rendition"

I have only one problem with the arrest of Abu Ali on charges of conspiring to assassinate the President, or set up a terrorist cell in the United States. Can we trust the evidence? If true then he is guilty of a serious crime indeed. Okay, full diclosure. I HATE TERRORISTS! I don't care who or what they are fighting for, they are immoral. The ultimate act of injustice to me is to kill an innocent person simply because of what that person symbolizes. Terror cells are small dictatorships that have many victims. People say to me, "'But the Catholics of Ireland were oppressed!" I say: "Then let them claim the right of accusers, and not become that which they despised!" So they tell me: "The Palestinians are 'freedom fighters'!" I tell them: "No! Robin Hood was a 'freedom fighter', the Maquis and the Resistantes were 'freedom fighters'! They were armed men fighting an even better armed foe, who had the upper hand, not killers of innocent civilians, like these 'suicide bombers'!" Though I am generally against the death penalty, I have made and would make an exception in the case of Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin-Laden. And I DO NOT FORGET HOW 3000 INNOCENT CIVILIANS DIED ON SEPTEMBER 11!

Alas, I fear that in the case of Abu Ali, the shoe is on the other foot.

What people have to understand here, is that in the case of "extraordinary rendition", we can't dodge the issue by saying that we freed the Iraqis from Saddam look how bad those people are anymore. That's OUR AMERICAN FLAG flying over Abu Ghraib now! OUR AMERICAN FLAG has flown over Guantanamo Bay for a century now. Those are OUR PRISONERS we are handing over for "extraordinary rendition". OUR AMERICAN FLAG, OUR AMERICAN PRISONS OUR PRISONERS. OUR AMERICAN VALUES, not Saddam's are in question here! OUR PRIDE, AND GOOD NAME, are also at stake. So it's not Saddam's, but OUR AMERICAN CONSCIENCE, and OUR AMERICAN JUSTICE we need to worry about!!!

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was born not in Jordan, like his parents, but in Houston Texas in 1981. He is an American citizen whose family now lives in Falls Church VA. He probably speaks English without anything more than a Tidewater accent. He went to an Islamic highschool. He was a valedictorian. He was thought of by his peers as a wise young man, rather mature for his age. He was involved in the northern Virginia’s Muslim community.

Now the governments case is not without merit. There seems to be the matter of a conspiracy to train and export terrorists throughout the Middle East from the Falls Church area. According to the Washington Post:

“Kwon, 27, of Fairfax County, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, transfer of a firearm for use in a crime of violence, and discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Hasan, 27, also of Fairfax County, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

Both Kwon and Hasan could have faced up to life in prison under federal law, though prosecutors had said that sentencing guidelines would limit their terms to less than 20 years.

Surratt, of Suitland, a former U.S. Marine Corps instructor, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and illegal transportation of a firearm in interstate commerce.

He had been facing up to 15 years in prison.”

The training was said to have taken place on a private estate and involved the use of paintball weapons, but there were also Report on real weapons involved according to the Post:

“Yesterday's arrests resulted from a federal probe in which agents armed with search warrants have raided the homes of about a dozen people in the Washington suburbs and have seized rifles and other weapons, scopes, ammunition, terrorist literature and other documents, court filings say.”

And it gets worse:

“In September, the charges were upgraded against seven of the men, and two now face allegations that they conspired to provide material support to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization and to his Taliban protectors in Afghanistan. A third is accused of supplying services to the Taliban.

All seven men charged in the upgraded indictment have pleaded not guilty. Six of them are scheduled to go on trial in February, with the seventh facing trial in March.”

In the course of the investigation Abu Ali’s name came up as someone who allegedly trained in the estate, and attended anti-western lectures.

And he is charged with conspiring to assassinate the President.

The long shadow of John F. Kennedy's limo at Dealy Plaza reaches me, even if I don't like this President. Nobody assassinates our President! Ever!

I have no problem with arresting and punishing terrorists with stiff, heavy sentences. In the way this administration administers justice however, there I do have and enormous problem.

Evidence and convictions obtained through torture are not just the “fruit of a poisonous tree”. This is so because torture is immoral, and the evidence obtained is really useless, due to the fact that most people would say anything to avoid torture. It is mainly used as a tool of terror.

Ahmed Abu Ali was arrested in Saudi Arabia in connection to a bombing. He was held for two years without being charged however.
Now the government claims that there is no evidence that Ali was tortured, yet his lawyers claim they saw evidence of whipping. It is possible that in the two years he was detained he could’ve been tortured by a number of methods that leave no mark on the body.

Saudi Arabia is not the best known champion of human rights:

From the Amnesty International Report on Saudi Arabia:

"Torture and ill-treatment

Torture in detention
Because of the strict secrecy surrounding arrests and incommunicado detention, it was not possible to assess the scale of torture used against those arrested in connection with or following the violent incidents which took place. However, allegations of torture and ill-treatment of those detained in the name of security and “fighting terrorism”, as well as of prisoners arrested in previous years, were reported.

• Muhammad Rajkhan was said to have suffered damage to his eardrum and loss of weight reportedly as a result of torture and ill-treatment after his arrest in February (see above).
• Five UK nationals and one Canadian national who were released from prison in August following a royal pardon provided detailed accounts of their treatment in prisons in Riyadh. They claimed that they repeatedly suffered various forms of torture during interrogation in order to force them to confess to police accusations against them. These included beatings all over the body and on the soles of the feet, sleep deprivation, and shackling and handcuffing for long periods.
Flogging and amputation
Flogging and amputation continued to be imposed by courts as judicial corporal punishment. Among those sentenced to flogging during the year was a woman schoolteacher who received 120 lashes in addition to three and a half months in prison. She was reportedly convicted of planting drugs in the briefcase of her fiancé and reporting him to the police in order to have him imprisoned and facilitate her separation from him. According to one press report she was forcibly engaged to him by her family who refused her request to go back on the marriage.

At least one person, Ghazi Muhammad Mohsen Abdul-Ghani, a Bangladeshi national, had his right hand amputated in March in Mecca. He was convicted of theft."

Also Bush’s policy of “rendition”, the outsourcing of detention in countries known to have tortured prisoners is also highly questionable.

The CIA has been given broad authority ever since 9/11 to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation without case by case approval from the White House, the State or Justice Departments.

Officials will tell you that the policy is aimed only at people suspected of knowing about terrorist operations, and that the CIA goes through great lengths to ensure that they are treated humanely in the host countries. But therein lies the disingenuousness of the CIA stance.

A New York Times article, gives the impression that the ability of the CIA to ensure the welfare of it’s erstwhile charges is limited”

“In Congressional testimony last month, the director of central intelligence, Porter J. Goss, acknowledged that the United States had only a limited capacity to enforce promises that detainees would be treated humanely. ‘We have a responsibility of trying to ensure that they are properly treated, and we try and do the best we can to guarantee that,’ Mr. Goss said of the prisoners that the United States had transferred to the custody of other countries. ‘But of course once they're out of our control, there's only so much we can do. But we do have an accountability program for those situations.’”

According to the article, anecdotal evidence of the ineffectiveness of CIA policing is not only rife, but a strange pattern emerges:
“Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, who was detained at Kennedy Airport two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks and transported to Syria, where he said he was subjected to beatings. A year later he was released without being charged with any crime.

Khaled el-Masri, a Lebanese-born German who was pulled from a bus on the Serbia-Macedonia border in December 2003 and flown to Afghanistan, where he said he was beaten and drugged. He was released five months later without being charged with a crime.

Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian who was arrested in Pakistan several weeks after the 2001 attacks. He was moved to Egypt, Afghanistan and finally Guantánamo. During his detention, Mr. Habib said he was beaten, humiliated and subjected to electric shocks. He was released after 40 months without being charged.”

The program, from it’s inception during the Clinton Administration was never very effective in it’s safeguards according to another article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Sending terrorist suspects overseas for interrogation began during the Clinton presidency, but required White House approval before anyone could be subject to so-called rendition.

That rule changed after September 11, according to a New York Times report at the weekend, when President George Bush signed a classified directive that gave the CIA power to operate without case-by-case approval.

Neither the Administration nor the CIA have publicly acknowledged that hundreds of terrorist suspects have been subjected to rendition, but it is widely accepted that the practice, which gathered speed after September 11, continues to this day.

On 60 Minutes, Michael Sheuer, a former CIA analyst who said he helped devise the rendition program during the Clinton presidency, said US authorities did ask officials in the countries to which suspects were taken not to torture them.

"But they don't have the same legal system we have; we know that going into it," Mr Sheuer said. "We ask them not to torture these people, but we aren't there to check on them."

Asked whether the CIA knew people were being tortured and whether this was acceptable, he said: "It's OK with me. Our role was to gather information. My job was to protect American lives."

Aside from torture, the first three stories have one other thing in common, each of these individuals was held in detention for an average of 19 months and then released without being charged.

Which brings us back to Abu Ali.

His family was forced to sue to have him either charged or set free.

Only after the lawsuit was he charged and brought back to the United States. The Saudi government was in no way interested in charging him for the crime he was arrested. Yet they kept him for nearly two years until now. Now they propose to rely on evidence obtained in a country with no regard for human rights. The courts are clear about illegally obtained evidence, it is unusable. Testimony obtained by any undue duress including torture is therefore unusable. Now do the math. Most people detained by the Saudis at the behest of the United States accuse them of torture. How many of them are wrong? Amnesty International is certain of the horrid record of the Saudis. The FOIA documents obtained by the ACLU also call into question the methods of interrogation and discipline at Guantanamo, and other prison camps. At it’s worst, any implication of torture points to a violation of civil and human rights. At the least it weakens any case the government might have against real terrorists, who could then walk out on a technicality. At it’s most frightening, it could take a possibly innocent man and turn him into a terrorist.

I will allow The Washington Post to conclude my statement for me:

“Moreover, even as Mr. Abu Ali's indictment solves one problem, it potentially creates another. Mr. Abu Ali has alleged that he was tortured by the Saudis; federal prosecutors denied this claim yesterday, but, according to Post staff writers Jerry Markon and Steve Coll, Saudi security officials confirmed the use of some physical and psychological pressure tactics. An examination of the indictment does not reveal what evidence, if any, was gleaned directly or indirectly from coerced statements. But the timing of the indictment, nearly two years after the arrest, suggests that U.S. authorities may be relying on evidence provided by the Saudis. This is not necessarily inappropriate. But the courts need to ensure that no evidence obtained by torture -- with or without the connivance of the U.S. government -- is used to convict people in U.S. courts.”


I just found something by Der Spiegel that puts the whole thing in perspective:

"American officials have offered pretzel logic to defend these practices. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said that if the United States sends a prisoner abroad, then our nation's constitution no longer applies.

This is just the sort of thinking that led to the horrible abuses at prisons in Iraq, where the Army is now holding more Iraqi prisoners than ever: nearly 9,000. The military says it's doing a better job of screening these prisoners than in the days when a vast majority of Iraqi prisoners were, in fact, innocent of any wrongdoing. But there is still a shortage of translators to question prisoners, the jails are dangerously overcrowded, and there's never been a full and honest public accounting of the rules the American prison guards now follow.

Let's be clear about this: Any prisoner of the United States is protected by American values. That cannot be changed by sending him to another country and pretending not to notice that he's being tortured."

We can complain all we want about how terrible things were under Saddam and his atrocities. This time, all the injustice is occurring under our flag, and under American command and therefore - our responsibility. And though that is the worst of the aspects of the problem, only a little less so is the thought that American legal justice is one of it's victims as well.

The Washington Post - 11 Indicted In Alleged Va. Jihad Network

Findlaw - The Strange Case of Abu Ali

The New York Times - Rule Change Lets C.I.A. Freely Send Suspects Abroad to Jails

Der Spiegel - Torture by Proxy

A.C.L.U. Release FOIA Navy Documents on Mistreatment of Iraqi POWs

Amnesty International - Fear Of Torture - Abu Ali