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Friday, February 18, 2005

Home Depot okayed to sell asbestos sheetrock 

It's always a matter of framing, isn't it? The latest Bushbill (change one "b" in that word to "t", unscramble and you get "Bullshit", anagram fans) targets frivolous lawsuits, which we can all agree needs overhauling, right? Part of me thinks, this is OK if it streamlines the process, right?

On the other hand:

But opponents said overworked federal courts will not take many consumer, environmental and civil rights cases filed under state laws, making it harder for ordinary citizens to hold big companies to account. "This legislation essentially denies consumers access to a uniquely important legal tool against corporate wrongdoing," said Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federal of America. She called it a victory of "special interests" over consumers.

This is accurate. Moving the cases all to a higher court will by definition push many cases out of consideration. The real data that should be reported in this is what percentage of the class action suits brought to the state courts are eventually "successful"--i.e. result in punitive action. I don't know what the number is, but a cursory search on Google and AskJeeves indicated most law firms claim 50-90% success. This hardly seems frivolous. This means most class action suits have merits.

Thus, a better bill to pass is to limit the trial length, the lawyer fees, and the punitive damages. This may not even reduce the "take home" amount for the true victims, but in streamlining the cost structure will make it better overall.

The bill signed today will simply protract the process, and cases will wait for that much longer to appear in the single court, which will be eternally overloaded. Will it stop frivolous suits? Unlikely, since state courts already don't take them.

This is analogous to the death penalty fiasco. People wait on death row for decades, often dying in prison of "natural" causes, but with the extra taxpayer burden of the appeals, etc., that go with it.

So, this may be an area that needs overhauling. This, however, was the wrong way to do it. It will not save court costs, and it will protract the whole process, costing society much more. It may keep a few of Bush's buddies (at Home Depot and Dell and Dell, for example) from losing pending or soon-to-be-filed class action suits, though, you think?

-Vulf

Abu Ghraib is to Gitmo what Dachau was to Auschwitz 

OK, the latest reports on Abu Ghraib look bad...really bad:

Here's the first part of the article...don't read the whole thing after you've eaten:

An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while in a position condemned by human rights groups as torture — suspended by his wrists with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to reports reviewed by Associated Press. The death of Manadel al-Jamadi became known last year when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. The U.S. military said at the time that the death had been ruled a homicide.

The prisoner died in a position known as "Palestinian hanging," the documents show. The spy agency, which faces congressional scrutiny over its detention and interrogation of terror suspects at the Baghdad prison and elsewhere, declined to comment, as did the Justice Department. Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA's "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib — prisoners being held secretly by the agency.


Abu Ghraib is a prison in the theatre of action. Wait until the details on Guantanamo come out. It's well back of the front lines. It's the concentration camp. It's where the torture has been systematized and made permanent.

It may also be the reason why you are not allowed to travel to Cuba as a US citizen. Hmmm, how convenient.

-Vulf

Concentration Camp 

It is now clear that Guantanamo is a concentration camp. Not simply a prison camp, not simply a torture camp (it is all that), but a concentration camp--a place to keep people without consideration for the rest of their lives.

The latest sample:

A British resident has been blinded in one eye by American military police at Guantanamo Bay, his lawyer claimed today.

"In March 2004 the Emergency Reaction Force in Camp Delta came into his cell," he said. "They brought their pepper spray and held him down. "They held both of his eyes open and sprayed it into his eyes and later took a towel soaked in pepper spray and rubbed it in his eyes. "Omar could not see from either eye for two weeks but he gradually got sight back in one eye.

"He's totally blind in the right eye. I can report that his right eye is all white and milky - he can't see out of it because he has been blinded by the US in Guantanamo." Mr Stafford Smith added that one of the officers also pushed his finger into Mr Deghayes' eye. It was a combination of the pepper spray and the gouging which led to loss of his sight, the lawyer claimed.


Does this remind you of the Gulag? Koestler's Darkness at Noon? Me, neither. No, indeed, this is more ominous, with overtones of Mengele. With all the filtering that goes on in Bush's world of wisdom and wonder, it's not surprising no one has yet made this connection.

Guantanamo is a concentration camp. Outside the US proper, away from prying eyes, three years and running. A place to hold people for the rest of their natural (or otherwise) lives. A place to desensitize your underlings to the sufferings of the enemy. A place to dehumanize. After all, Geneva is a long way from Gitmo, and such a quaint Swiss city anyway. We don't need their atavistic conventions.

-Vulf

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Name an Iraqi woman candidate... 

Come on, I dare you, defy you, deny you, decry you...name a single woman running for any office in Iraq. Can't do it, can you?

Freedom, apparently, does not extend to the 60% of Iraqis who happen to be women. Seems to me that would be a mandate of all mandates here in the states.

Iraq's excluded women are underrepresented, and undefended by the US invaders:

Building democracy in Iraq will prove impossible without immediate leadership from the country’s forsaken majority: its women. But while the Bush administration trumpets women’s rights in the Middle East, it neglects to back words with action. The failure to empower women would condemn Iraq to the fate of its Arab neighbors—autocracy, economic stagnation, and social malaise.

It was August 2003 in the Iraqi city of Najaf—long before the holy city's takeover by Muslim cleric Moktada al-Sadr—and U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Conlin faced a dilemma. Arriving at a swearing-in ceremony for Nidal Nasser Hussein, Najaf's first female lawyer and Conlin's selection for a judgeship on the local court, he encountered a gaggle of demonstrators protesting her appointment. Despite their relatively small number (about 30 in a city of more than half a million), Conlin relented and delayed Hussein's appointment indefinitely.

Doesn't sound like equal rights to me:

The United States set a disastrous precedent even before the invasion of Iraq by creating a government-in-waiting led by an exile group almost entirely bereft of women. The CPA appointed only three women to the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council, and Minister of Public Works Nesreen Berwari is the only female in the Cabinet of Ministers. Although more than 80 women serve on city, district, and neighborhood councils in Baghdad, far fewer serve in the 18 Iraqi provinces, and none has been appointed a provincial governor. Worse, no women were appointed to the 24-member constitutional drafting committee, which produced the document currently serving as the interim constitution.

Here's a perspective from an Iraqi woman living in the UK:

Every day, leaflets are distributed across the country warning women against going out unveiled, wearing makeup or mixing with men. Many female university students have given up their studies to protect themselves against the Islamists...

If Iraqi women take part in the elections, who are they to vote for?

Women's rights are ignored by most of the candidates. The U.S. government appears happy to have Iraq governed by reactionary religious and ethnocentric elites.

Obviously, Iraq has been steadily deteriorating since the Gulf War, with international sanctions strangling the lower and middle classes. But the US invasion and takeover has not been accompanied by real democracy or freedom.

In fact, as horrifying as this is to admit, if Iraq ends up being run by men at the expense of women, this is eerily the same minority percentage (40%) in control as that existing when the Sunnites under Saddam ran the country. The more that things change, the more they stay the same.

-Vulf

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ack, sputter, cough, you MUST be kidding! 

The CIA director is now telling us that the Iraq War is providing the impetus for the training of terrorists, and because of that we should instantly approve Bush's astonishing, brazen defense bill while the deficit burgeons?

This article is almost enough to split your aorta...

Speaking with one voice, President Bush (news - web sites)'s top intelligence and military officials said Wednesday that terrorists are regrouping for possible new strikes against the United States.

Regrouping from what? The loss of Somalia? The loss of their bases in Bora Bora and Pakistan? Their loss of Osama Bin Laden? What new strikes--the daily dozen against US soldiers in Iraq?

They said the best defense was for Congress to approve the president's military and anti-terror budget. But some in Congress, including prominent Republicans, were questioning some of that spending.

Or just questioning the size of what they're asking? I love how the leaders of the coup refer to a vague terrorist threat anytime they want money, then tell us how safe the world is whenever they want to reassure (ignorant) Americans. You can't have it both ways (well, I guess you can--see that ignorant part again).

Offering few specifics on terror threats, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a House hearing that the government could reasonably predict attacks would come from terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and other means.

Or worse yet, attacks on the deficit may come suddenly and powerfully. Please be a good Patriot and fight the axis of evil that threatens the coup's deficit: (1) fiscal responsibility, (2) exiting Iraq, immediately, and (3) the end of the tax cuts.

Meanwhile, new CIA (news - web sites) Director Porter Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee the Iraq (news - web sites) war was giving terrorists experience and contacts for future attacks, and FBI (news - web sites) Director Robert Mueller expressed worry that a sleeper operative in the U.S. may have been in place for years, awaiting orders for an attack.

Arrgh...this is over the top. You start an illegal war, then wrap yourself in the flag, then say this same war is training terrorists, so ask for more money, to start more wars, to train more terrorists, to do some more flag wrapping, and you'll get more money. Oceania, we are thee. Lies are truth. Wars are peace. Deficits are profits. Freedom is tyranny. Fear is protection.

Right in his statement, the CIA Director is saying "If we got out of Iraq, we'll stop giving terrorists experience and contacts." Why the HELL won't he listen to himself?

-Vulf

Monday, February 14, 2005

Grassroots Organizations 

With Dean now the DNC chair, there is a chance for Dems to change their approach at the grassroots level--starting with the following compelling, positive reasons to be Dem (assuming they get their acts together and support these):

1. Dems allow no intoleration of any kind. We stand firm on gay rights and immigrant rights, not because these are the most important people on the planet (they're just as important, but not moreso), but because once you give in to one set of people, you will give in to any type of people--the only difference being the price.
2. We support gay unions, because we support all people. We also will not call it "gay marriage", because we respect religious people--even if we (strongly) disagree with them--to reserve this word for the "traditional" definition. We do, however, provide the same legal rights to these couples. See (1). Today it is GLBT's, tomorrow non-Christians. We will not give in to prejudice of any kind.
3. We support all people, and so all people will have health insurance. All people will have social security. All people will have access to the Internet.
4. We want the US economy to get stronger and for the world to be a safer, more secure place. We will work with others to make this happen. It does not make us weaker to listen to others. If the UN doesn't work, we'll help fix it. But nationalism as an end in itself must stop. The "Nazis" were nationalists. "Homeland" is English for the Vaterland. We do not want "Homeland Security", we want world security. To make it happen, we have to work with the other 95.5% of people. And we will.

This is a real grassroots effort. Quite different than the Republican idea of a grassroot effort:

http://www.babesforbush.com/

On which they say, and I quote:

"Babes for Bush is a grassroots organization founded in late 1999. We have continually worked to spread the news that we have a leader worthy of our pride and praise. "

Funny. Bush was not our "leader" (Why leader? Why not President? Why the English word for fuhrer?) in late 1999. He was inaugurated 20 January 2001--more than a year after they began their "marketing campaign". Thus, they admit, through stupidity not honesty, that they're liars. Spread the news first...then ignore reality. It's the "sold" presidency in oh, so many ways.

Let's get a real grassroots effort going, shall we?

-Vulf

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