As the elections heat up, Republicans are attacking critics, literally. Here Senator Allen’s staff attacked someone asking him questions today. I guess royalty believe they should be immune to questioning:
UPDATE: Here is a letter from Mike Stark, the man who was assaulted:
My name is Mike Stark. I am a law student at the University of Virginia, a marine, and a citizen journalist. Earlier today at a public event, I was attempting to ask Senator Allen a question about his sealed divorce record and his arrest in the 1970s, both of which are in the public domain. His people assaulted me, put me in a headlock, and wrestled me to the ground. Video footage is available here, from an NBC affiliate.
I demand that Senator Allen fire the staffers who beat up a constituent attempting to use his constitutional right to petition his government. I also want to know why Senator Allen would want his staffers to assault someone asking questions about matters of public record in the heat of a political campaign. Why are his divorce records sealed? Why was he arrested in the 1970s? And why did his campaign batter me when I asked him about these questions.
George Allen defends his support of the Iraq war by saying that our troops are defending the ideals America stands for. Indeed, he says our troops are defending our very freedom. What kind of country is it when a Senator’s constituent is assaulted for asking difficult and uncomfortable questions? What freedoms do we have left? Maybe we need to bring the troops home so that they can fight for freedom at George Allen’s campaign events. Demanding accountability should not be an offense worthy of assault.
I will be pressing charges against George Allen and his surrogates later today. George Allen, at any time, could have stopped the fray. All he had to do was say, “This is not how my campaign is run. Take your hands off that man.” He could have ignored my questions. Instead he and his thugs chose violence. I spent four years in the Marine Corps. I’ll be damned if I’ll let my country be taken from me by thugs that are afraid of taking responsibility for themselves.
It just isn’t the America I know and love. Somebody needs to take a stand against those that would bully and intimidate their fellow citizens. That stand begins right here, right now.
A major GOP federal court victory has plunged the Ohio 2006 election into the calculated chaos that has become the trademark of a Karl Rove election theft, and that could help keep the Congress in Republican hands nationwide.
Through a complex series of legal maneuvers, and now a shocking new 2-1 decision from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the GOP has thrown Ohio’s entire process of voting and vote counting into serious disarray. The mess is perfectly designed to suppress voter turnout, make election monitoring and a recount impossible, and allow the Republican Party to emerge with a victory despite overwhelming evidence the electorate wants exactly the opposite.
The disaster in Ohio began immediately after the theft of the presidential election here in 2004. Though the majority of Ohioans are registered Democrats, the gerrymandered state legislature is overwhelmingly Republican. Soon after John Kerry conceded, it passed House Bill 3, a draconian assault on voter registration drives, voting rights and the ability to secure reliable recounts of federal-level elections.
In brief, HB3 stacked a virtually impossible set of requirements onto the voter registration process. As elsewhere nationwide, voting has traditionally involved citizens coming to the polls and signing a poll book. Upon a signature check from a poll worker, a ballot has been given. A similar process has been in effect for absentee ballots. There is no recent evidence this method has encouraged significant voter fraud.
But the GOP’s HB3 has imposed a series of draconian requirements for voter ID, including the demand for certain documents very difficult to obtain by many poor, homeless, elderly or other largely Democratic demographic groups.
To further complicate matters, Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell is now in charge of the same election in which he is the GOP nominee for governor. He has added some additional, entirely arbitrary disqualifying factors of his own. Blackwell was the state co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in the 2004 election, which he also ran while making the key decisions that gave Bush-Cheney a second term in the White House.
On all absentee ballots, HB3 demands an identifying driver’s license number, or the equivalent. But Ohio driver’s licenses have two codes on them. The “correct” one has two letters and six numbers. The “wrong” one is an eleven-number bureaucratic code that appears above the ID photo.
According to preliminary reports, as many as ten percent of those sending in absentee ballots so far have included the wrong code, thus disqualifying their vote. The process is so confusing that one Republican federal judge, in a court proceeding, has volunteered the fact that he actually put this same “wrong” number on an application for a rental car, temporarily nullifying his contract. Here in Columbus, Board of Elections Director Matt Damschroder estimates that 5000 ballots would already be disqualified in Franklin County alone.
As usual, the Democrats keep silent as the vote is stolen right under their noses. Eventually people will cease voting, which will suit the Democrats just fine.
In contrast, it estimates that global warming could be addressed by spending 1% of GDP, “roughly the same amount as is spent worldwide on advertising, and half what the World Bank estimates a full-blown flu pandemic would cost”
The review by Sir Nicholas Stern, commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and published tomorrow, marks a crucial point in the debate by underlining how failure to act would trigger a catastrophic global recession. Unchecked climate change would turn 200 million people into refugees, the largest migration in modern history, as their homes succumbed to drought or flood.
Stern also warns that a successor to the Kyoto agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions should be signed next year, not by 2010/11 as planned. He forecasts that the world needs to spend 1 per cent of global GDP – equivalent to about £184bn – dealing with climate change now, or face a bill between five and 20 times higher for damage caused by letting it continue. Unchecked climate change could thus cost as much as £566 for every man, woman and child now on the planet – roughly 6.5 billion people.
The 700-page report argues that an international framework on climate change covering the globe will be necessary, and that different countries may opt to reduce emissions differently. Options range from many more green taxes to carbon trading.
This article doesn’t discuss what assumptions are made bout the magnitude of global warming and its effects. But it seems that it used rather optimistic assumptions. Others argue that the type of reforms discussed here are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s needed. But, at least it would be a start, which is a lot better than where we are now.
[UPDATE:Here is a link to the full report. Also available there are a Press Release, a presentation, etc.]
An interview with Carlos Arredondo, Boston resident who lost his son in Iraq. When notified, Carlos “went crazy” and set fire to the van of the Marines who notified him. Since then Carlos and his wife Melida Arredono have dedicated themselves day in and day out to ending the war.
Two new articles remind us how death is overtaking life in Iraq. A new article by a Baghdad academic — University Professors in Iraq and Death Anxiety — reports on a survey of university professors in Baghdad and Mustansiriya regarding death anxiety. It found:
*All professors suffer death anxiety
*Afraid of painful death (91%)
*Thinking of death of loved ones (81%)
*Afraid of body deterioration that accompany slow death (72%)
*Worried about dying very painfully (69%)
* Feeling that death is every where (66%)
*Terrified of seeing a dead body (66%)
*Obsession of getting killed any minute (66%)
*Thinking of my personal death (53%)
* Prefer not to attend a dying friend (53%)
*Would avoid death no matter whatever it takes (50%)
* Think of death directly before going to bed (47%)
*Death is better than a painful life (38%)
*Feel closer to death than to life (31%)
*Extremely afraid to die (31%)
*Terrified by the idea of decomposition after death (28%)
Perhaps most disturbing among these findings is that 66% of these professors felt that death was everywhere and that half (47%) think of death before going to bed. Iraq has now become a country of death in life for those whom it is not simply a country of death.
The author tries to maintain a ray of hope by reminding us that the academic vocation, like teaching in general, is oriented toward the future, toward life:
The essential task of the academic personality is to create life in its highest aims, beginning with lectures, scientific research, whether theoretical or inside laboratories or fields, and to accumulate the eternal truths in the human mind library. Is it possible for such a creator of life to coexist with deep and objective anxiety of assassination and death pain??
The Iraqi situation every day now proves that death anxiety does not prevent the Iraqi universities academics of their deep civilized awareness that desperately defending life culture is the only effective way to pull out death’s treacherous fangs, and to rehabilitate the concept of “eternity” as an alternative to all cultures of annihilation and elimination.
Private lives have been dented and squeezed into uncomfortable positions. Houda, a 40-year-old layout designer for a magazine in Baghdad who would not give her last name, said the violence had cast her and her husband in the roles of emergency room doctors, shouting orders and performing urgent tasks. Little time remains for intimacy. The last time she remembers feeling happy together was a year ago.
“Something has changed,” she said. “There is a kind of dryness between us now.”
One conversation that comes up daily is about leaving Iraq, but there are no answers.
It is a daily struggle not to shout at her two teenage girls, one that she usually loses. She has stopped hugging and kissing them, a strange byproduct of extreme stress, she said. Recently, her 15-year-old called to say she missed her, though they had not been apart.
“I feel surrounded by threats,” she said. “When I go to work. When they go to school.”
Even the ability to think, to remember, is gradually disappearing:
As the violence tears the fabric of society, breaking communities and long-established social networks, even peoples’ thinking is muted. Plans for the future are too painful, too breakable, many Baghdad residents say, and so their thoughts stay fixed on the immediate.
“The events are too big to comprehend, and the mind stops thinking,” Ms. Attiya said. The result, she said, is a distracted population with vastly diminished ambitions.
With jobs too difficult or too dangerous to find in many cases, young people in particular have put aside their dreams. In such an environment, the allure of populist leaders and militias offering protection, a sense of purpose and belonging has become compelling.
For the women — secular, middle class, employed and part of an increasingly slender slice of Iraq’s population — the effects have been on a more personal scale.
Many reported a new difficulty with memory, particularly of numbers and dates.
For Houda, it happened in front of a television set. She sat down to turn on her favorite Egyptian television show a few days ago, and for several minutes she could not remember the channel.
“It was a blankness,” she said. “My brain is loaded. It is not active like before.”
One aspect of the Iraqi situation that is different from many other civil war situations is the breakdown of even local community. The fear of going outside means that families have trouble getting together, and that even conversing with neighbors is dangerous:
Life was also hard under Saddam Hussein, the women pointed out. Plans were equally impossible to build. But the basic fabric of life, visiting family, attending weddings and funerals, was for the most part intact. Now Iraqis are letting go even of those parts.
The ministry employee sat at the table looking agitated. She attended the funeral for the mother of a good friend this month. The family was Christian, large and respected in the community, and before the war, such a funeral would draw hundreds. Instead, 10 people came to the church service, and only one, the dead woman’s son-in-law, risked following the casket out to the cemetery. Even her daughter stayed home.
In many parts of Iraq, where mixed neighborhoods are being broken apart, the distrust is even greater. There is no sense of all being in it together. Your neighbor may be an enemy, or at least, one of those to be blamed for the horrors. Throughout much of the country, the militias provide one of the few opportunities for community, which is, probably,among their attractions.
People are resilient. Should, somehow, the violence stop, daily life will gradually revive. But wounds will remain. Imagine children growing up knowing only fear, fear should they step outdoors to play. Fear every time they go to school, when they go to school. Fear when father or mother leaves the house.
We have an obligation to put ourselves in the shoes of the Iraqis and try and imagine, however difficult, what life must be like there, in a world of death and of fear at every moment. A world where joy has taken a long vacation. We must not forget. And, when the occupation and the civil war end, we must be there to help in whatever ways we can.
The new Barbara Kopple movie about the Dixie Chicks, Shut Up and Sing, is apparently out in New York and LA, though the rest of us will have to wait until November 10 to view it. Like the Chicks themselves, the movie is under attack from the forces that be. NBC has refused to air the ad for the movie for dissing the President. [See ad here.] There’s a segment in which Bush says [something like] “they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt because people don’t want to buy their CDs.” Perhaps NBC shouldn’t have their feelings hurt if people want their airwaves back.
Washington’s new anti-terrorism law could end up violating international treaties protecting detainees, with some provisions denying suspects the right to a fair trial, a key U.N. rights expert said Friday.
Martin Scheinin, the United Nations’ expert on protecting human rights in the fight against terrorism, said the Military Commissions Act signed into law earlier this month by U.S. President George W. Bush contains provisions “incompatible” with U.S. obligations to adhere to treaties on human rights and humanitarian law.
“One of the most serious aspects of this legislation is the power of the president to declare anyone, including U.S. citizens, without charge as an ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ – a term unknown in international humanitarian law,” said Scheinin, a legal expert from Finland.
As a result, he said, those detainees are subject to the jurisdiction of a military commission composed of military officers – rather than a civilian court of law.
He also deplored the denial of the habeas corpus rights of foreigners – including legal, permanent U.S. residents – to challenge the legality of their detention, “in manifest contradiction with” the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty the U.S. ratified in 1992.
Another concern, Scheinin said, is the denial of detainees’ rights to see evidence that could exonerate them if the evidence….
I’ve deleted the usual nonsense from U.S. officials on how its all perfectly legal.
Many of us have been fighting for a long time to change APA policy regarding psychologists’ participation in national security interrogations. As I have written about, there have been various efforts, so far unsuccessful, to change the organization’s policies from within. Some members, led by Ghislaine , have decided that we have tried the internal fight long enough. They are organizing to withhold APA dues, now due. See Ghislaine Boulange’s article:
Should we withhold our 2007 dues to the American Psychological Association?
There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether to withhold dues from the APA in light of the continuing use of psychologists in Guantanamo and other sites in which ‘enemy combatants’ are being tortured. Some have been categorically opposed to withholding dues, arguing that it is better to stay within the organization and work from there, saying that not paying dues is poor strategy; others have urged a wait and see attitude. For some of us this is not a question of strategy, it is a question of conscience. Which is not to say that sometimes acts of conscience cannot also be strategic. Be that as it may, let me speak for myself, I simply cannot in good conscience continue paying dues to an organization whose ethics code supports the use of psychologists in facilities that do not observe international human rights law. I cannot support an organization whose spokesmen do not speak for me (recall Stephen Behnke, APA’s director of ethics, telling a reporter from the NY Times last June that “helping military interrogators made a valuable contribution because it was part of an effort to prevent terrorism”). I do not wish to be associated with an organization whose president publishes columns on the question of psychological ethics that are at best naive and at worst disingenuous (see Gerald Koocher’s President’s columns in the February 2006 and July/August 2006 Psychological Monitor).
I have watched this struggle for several years believing that good sense would prevail. I hoped that it would this summer, and thought, briefly, that it had, only to watch as the 2006 resolution against torture was subverted by the addition of a clause rendering changes meaningless. Worst of all, the APA continues to support the use of psychologists in facilities that contravene the Geneva Conventions, making American psychologists vulnerable to charges of unethical conduct and poor judgment in the international community.
Some psychologists opposed to these ethics are continuing to work actively within the APA to change the policy. Others, in an act of ‘civil disobedience,’ are opting to withhold dues. I do not believe that those of us who are withholding our dues are in any way questioning or undermining what those who are working within the system are seeking to accomplish. At best our action can add further impetus to the argument that current policies are offensive to at least some of the memberhsip.
A number of us who are interested in withholding dues want to reach as many like-minded psychologists as we can. To that end we have set up a listserve which interested psychologists can join in order to discuss how to organize as a group and how to maximize the impact of our decision. If you are interested in exploring this direction, we invite you to join the listserve. This is how to do it: To join the Withholdapadues listserve, you have to have a Yahoo account first. If you don’t have a Yahoo account, it takes less than five minutes to go through all the steps (and it’s free), if you have a Yahoo account, you probably know that it takes less than 60 seconds to join a specific group). In either case, go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/withholdapadues and follow the directions. Once you have made it into the group, please send us a message to email@example.com to tell us that you have joined the group. If you have any trouble going through this process, please send an email to our webmaster, Rachel Kadushin, at Kadushin@aol.com and she will make sure you get onto the listserve.
I am of two minds about this movement. I certainly can understand the feeling that we should not remain part of an organization sanctioning psychologists’ participation in activities tantamount to torture, or in total institutions, such as Guantanamo, that are completely removed from any domestic or international legal protections. The very existence of Guantanamo is a war crime, and those participating are themselves engaging in war crimes.
My hesitancy about this movement is that I think the effort to reform the APA is far from over. There are several major mainstream magazine investigative articles on the issue due to appear in the next few months. I’m hopeful that publication of these articles will stimulate a new round of efforts to change the organization. I’d hate to have some of the most morally-engaged forces outside the organization and sidelined. At a minimum, I’d strongly urge dues withholders to keep those dues handy and be prepared to pay up promptly if reform efforts heat up. We’ll need you!
In consideration of the pair of Lancet-published Iraq mortality studies, here is a November 2004 lecture by Les Roberts on the 2004 study, its methodology and findings. It addresses many of the criticism that have been raised regarding the two studies. Roberts also happens to be a very good lecturer who can explain technical matters in simple language. Thanks to Lenin’s Tomb for this]