Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Maher Arar, I'm profoundly sorry

Just how many letters of profound apology are owed to innocent victims of our overzealous policies supposedly aimed at curbing terrorism? And how much animosity and likely future terrorism has been created by these misguided policies?

Khaled el-Masri, I'm profoundly sorry
Maher Arar, I'm profoundly sorry

I'm profoundly sorry that my government abdicated its responsibility in determining your innocence, and instead sent you to foreign lands where you were tortured and brutalized and made to confess to acts which you did not do. My government still seeks to excuse their criminal negligence against you and your loved ones, but I do not excuse them. Please forgive my fellow Americans for too long tolerating this sort of behavior from their government.

el-Masri and Arar are the two on this list of examples (scroll down) of extraordinary rendition who are clearly innocent. Many of the others there were apprehended on arguably flimsy evidence. In any case America should be about due process, and abdicating our responsibility to deal with likely terrorists because "wink, wink" these other governments without our scruples might be able to extract confessions, is a morally bankrupt and counter productive policy.

Oh, but we have Alberto Gonzales' assurance that:
Well, we were not responsible for his removal to Syria, I'm not aware that he was tortured, and I haven't read the Commission report. Mr. Arar was deported under our immigration laws. He was initially detained because his name appeared on terrorist lists, and he was deported according to our laws.

Some people have characterized his removal as a rendition. That is not what happened here. It was a deportation. And even if it were a rendition, we understand as a government what our obligations are with respect to anyone who is rendered by this government to another country, and that is that we seek to satisfy ourselves that they will not be tortured. And we do that in every case. And if in fact he had been rendered to Syria, we would have sought those same kind of assurances, as we do in every case.
Mr Gonzales you are a moral cripple who should be disbarred, let alone be sitting as the chief law enforcement officer of our land. That's harsh language against someone who appears so reasonable, and no doubt would be incapable of inflicting torture on anyone himself. But it was Gonzales who as chief counsel to the President was architect to internal policies weakening our commitment to the Geneva Conventions, referring to them as "quaint" and giving cover to those who created the environment for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, many against entirely innocent Iraqis who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

If Gonzales had any decency we would be expressing profound regret at the pain and suffering caused to innocent families trapped by the web of his own making. But instead he defends, denies, and asks us to believe that the government is satisfied in every case that such extradited prisoners will not be tortured.

But they were. Time and time again. Why send them except because we know that these other governments are not constrained as we are? And we are far less constrained already because of your policies? When will we renounce this madness? And still Bush stubbornly fights members of his own party to weaken our commitment against inhumane and degrading treatment. Canada's Harper could use some lessons in humility as well.

This is surely beyond the pale, and I just don't get those who don't understand that.

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

WA State Supreme Court Race Results

Of the major TV websites, it looks like King5 has the best primary night election coverage of those important races for Supreme Court.
At the moment Gerry Alexander vs John Groen is too close to call, the incumbent holding a 5 point edge with 25% counted. It looks like the presence of the extra candidates will cause a run-off to happen in the race between Susan Owens and Stephen Johnson, and nutcase Burrage will fail to get on the court.

It would be interesting to do in depth polling of the 22% of people who are voting for one of the other 3 candidates in the Owens-Johnson race, since Owens and Johnson by all previous reports were really the only serious candidates. Are these folks contrarians, guessing, or might those who voted for the other Johnson just be mixing up the names.

Well my fingers are crossed for Alexander - Groen seems downright creepy to me. We'll still have to drum up support for Owens in the General election in November.

Monday, 18 September 2006

Codifying Prisoner Mistreatment a Grievous Mistake

Stephen Daugherty wrote an excellent article on WatchBlog yesterday which did a great job of covering the bases on why writing in exceptions to (clarifying, according to Bush) the Geneva Conventions when it comes to humiliating and degrading treatment of prisoners is just awful policy on so many levels. I highly recommend the full article, but suggest that you just skip the comments section.

A Time for Partisanship

We should yearn for dialogue, not stridency; for calmly deliberated, rational solutions in public policy, not do-nothing bickering between shrill ideologues which leaves us with the status quo.

Frustration in America is palpable across the political spectrum. People with very different ideas about what direction is best are rightly annoyed that partisan divisiveness has engendered a climate of distrust.

Appealing to that frustration can result in some pretty compelling political advertising by candidates from any party who claim to represent a sensible deliberate approach to governance while attacking partisanship as a divisive source of political gridlock.

In my state of Washington, Republican candidate for Senate, Mike McGavick, is airing such a set of commercials. But I know that McGavick supports policies which run counter to my idea of good governance. (And his implication that incumbent Senator Cantwell is an exemplar of partisan divisiveness is dishonest. Cantwell's biggest problem may well come from the pacifist sensibilities of the liberal leaning Puget Sound electorate, many of whom were upset with the extent to which she supported Bush's Iraq policy.) More importantly, independents and moderate Republicans need to understand that in order for real dialogue to be restored, one-party control of government must be squashed.

That's right -- partisanship, specifically Democratic partisanship, is desperately needed right now to bring some balance to government so that dialogue can return.

Jack Whelan at the After the Future, summed it up brilliantly in a pair of posts (1) & (2) a month ago. Please read them both!
. . . moderates play right into the hands of the far right which hopes that no one mounts a serious opposition to their agenda. The longer the hard right can keep the moderates diverted in "reasonable" conversation, the more time it gives it to consolidate power. That's why moderates need throw their support to partisan Democrats, whether they like them or not. There is no other way to create a potent counterbalance to the power-grabbing agenda of the right. The right works hard to present a reasonable facade, but feels no need to negotiate or compromise unless it is forced to do so, and at the moment there is no political power potent enough to force such negotiations.

So my point is that moderates, if they really understood how serious the threat we are facing, would have no choice but to become partisans in opposing the current power grab by the far right. There is no way to communicate the seriousness of this threat moderately. And since moderates are inoculated against immoderate language, they cannot hear the alarm because it is alarmist. As such they are vulnerable to manipulation by the far right who achieve their ends precisely by playing moderates for the moderates that they are.

. . . There are no moderates in one-party systems; there are only collaborators. ... I consider myself a centrist, but I know many readers consider me alarmist. ... And I am particularly alarmed that moderates are still sitting on the fence because they think that's the grownup, reasonable thing to do. On the contrary, it's time to get alarmed, very alarmed.
Someone reading only this, or for that matter only Jack's articles might well complain that we have not cited the evidence that requires such an alarm. But I have to wonder what box such a person must have been living in for the last 5 years.

Friday, 15 September 2006

It's a Big Time in America

That was Jim Hightower's catchphrase last night as he entertained, agitated, and communed with an activist rich community last night in Seattle's Town Hall.

Hightower never minces words in his indictment of the powers that be who misuse their wealth and power to separate themselves from the rest of us, but what secures my admiration of him is his unrelenting optimism in spite of his often dire analysis. He finds the underlying progressivism in the fabric of America, even among those who think of themselves as conservative. Of Republican mothers he comments, "Guess what? They don't want pesticides on their babies' food."

"We don't have to create a progressive movement, we just have to go out and collect it up!"

There were zingers aplenty.

America depends on its agitators to beat out the dirt.

The bigwigs are "gettin' so rich they could air condition hell, and I tell you what ..."

When the Bushites tell the poor about their number of jobs they created, one working poor woman respond "I know, I have 3 of them!" (Then Hightower went on the expose that myth noting that Bush has created the fewest jobs of any president since Hoover.)

He quoted fellow Texan Bill Moyers who has noted that "the delusional is no longer marginal."

He made fun of himself, noting that at an earlier point in his career he decided to "stop running for office, and start running his mouth."

But beyond the barbs, Hightower's optimism takes over. He told the faithful that "pursuit of egalitarianism is America's true path." He doesn't pretend that the road will be easy or that it will be short. He reminded us that suffragists Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton never lived to get the vote themselves. But what they wrought brought America one step closer to its egalitarian destiny. Hightower referred to the "prairie fires of rebellion across America" today - "It's a big time in America!" and he quoted the Chinese proverb, "Those who say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."

He talked about how lucky he is to be able to travel all over America and meet the people who are getting things done. He thanked the crowd - not for coming to hear him, but for being on the front lines of the fight to retain our democracy. He thanked the sponsors. He thanked the Seattle Peace Chorus who had warmed the crowd up with several rousing songs of hope. He took a moment to remember the recently passed Ann Richards, another rabble-rousing Texan who made a real difference in moving that state forward in an earlier decade. His words were a accompanied by a genuine warmth, a warmth that was felt by a number of us lucky enough to meet him before the main event. Jim Hightower is the real deal, not just a blabbermouth ideologue looking for attention. He understands that the struggle is not about ideology, it's about truth.

All of us are going to be wrong sometimes, and sometimes partial truths can lead well intentioned people to disastrous decisions. But other times it's pretty obvious what's going on, and if we're all too timid to say it the powerful will continue to run roughshod over us. Timidity is certainly not among Hightower's shortcomings. We can always count on the sharp-witted Texan to give it to us straight in his "Lowdown", regulary aired on many public radio stations. But if you ever get a chance to see him live, don't miss it. Hightower live is a helluva treat.

Sunday, 10 September 2006

"Exquisite Hypocrisy"

That's how Noemie Maxwell captioned the photo of unqualified Washington State Supreme Court candidate John Groen in her excellent article, Buying Justice & Lying About It over at Washblog.
This [Groen] is the man who touts his "eighteen years (of) experience before the Washington Supreme Court, advocating for property rights," He's raised, $276,061.56 for this race, according to Washington's Public Disclosure Commission records. Much of it's from from lumber, construction, and development interests. Scads of it was poured into the campaign right before a June deadline that made such contributions illegal. SDS Company, for example, which provided $25,000 right before that deadline, is a lumber company from Klickitat County. Then we've got $25,000 from the principals of another development company, Sundquist Homes. And so on.

Gerry Alexander, our current chief justice, known as a moderate, adhered to the letter and spirit of Washington's law and has raised only $47,581.60. Alexander, according to King County Bar Association, is exceptionally well qualified.

We have only a week to expose the hypocrisy of those attempting to buy justice for their narrow well-moneyed interests. I fear Susan Owens is in particular trouble in her race against a better qualified (better qualified than Groen is faint praise) property-rights ideologue, Stephen Johnson who has secured several more media endorsements in his attempt to unseat the incumbent, who bravely sided with the minority in the recent high profile case on gay marriage. Hopefully, nutcase Jeanette Burrage's reputation will keep her from unseating the outstanding sitting justice Tom Chambers.

In the long term, we need to get our state to revisit a system which allows a primary vote to be the final determinant for these important offices, but all we can do now is to make sure our friends and acquaintances are informed and don't let the real "activist judges" take over the court for the building industry.

Resources include
Voting for Judges
Public Disclosure Commission