Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blog #41: A Happy Father's Day Indeed!

On Father’s Day this year Little Eddy scored in a major way. Older son Daniel (who lives in Seattle, WA) evidently thought of the idea, and he and younger son Joel (Phoenix, AZ) shared the cost. The gift: Sennheiser earphones, wireless earphones. Sennheiser has always been the choice of those who record and need the most accurate reproduction of their voice and instrument sound. Needless to say, my first task was to listen once again to the 10 one-hour Nightsong Podcasts I've been doing lately, this time giving them the critical perspective that only earphones can give you. I got through NS seven and was well into #8 when the sound suddenly began to fade and after a few minutes it went silent. That got me worried, what if the phones had to be sent back to Amazon where Daniel ordered them from? There was one possibility short of having to send them back as defective. Two little AAA batteries that sit inside the left phone. On the next trip to the store I bought fresh batteries, and the minute I got home I replaced them. And VIOLA! The phones worked again every bit at good as new. But it did get me thinking, how foolish of Sennheiser to put such run down batteries into the box with the phones. I wonder how many have returned the phones because they seemed to stop working after only a couple of days of use? Weird.

And I also found that wireless is just as sweet for earphones as it is for a telephone. Freedom from wires, there’s nothing quite like it. You are no longer anchored to your device. And the small FM transmitter that supplies the phones its signal, works not only when you are near it, but also from a distance. For instance I can now listen to music while I am cooking in the kitchen, and the sound doesn’t really start breaking up until I go out the front door. And listening to the programs I have done really impressed me with the quality of their sound. The quality is at least the equal of the original Nightsong programs, the digital sound is so quiet and noise free that you can follow the reverberation of a guitar chord at a song’s end until it dies naturally. Then it’s on to the next song without missing a beat.
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Scott McCellan spent Friday testifying about the leaking of former CIA operative Vallerie Plame Wilson’s identity, and other tidbits of interest to the House Judiciary Committee. He told the committee that the White House is (surprise, surprise) still concealing its involvement in the Plame matter. Scooter Libby was convicted of lying to investigators and a grand jury about his involvement in the CIA leak case. Since he was obviously acting on W.H. instructions Bush quietly commuted his sentence. "I'm glad to share my views," McClellan said. "I think I've made them very clear in the book. ... Essentially everything I know on that leak episode is written in the book – what I was told by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.” The committee is also looking into the use of prewar intelligence, whether or not politics was behind the firing of eight U.S. attorneys in 2006 and the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson's identity.

"The administration has always called for different kinds of privileges to avoid their officials testifying, but because Mr. McClellan has put all this information in a book, these privileges, I do not believe, would be available to the administration, so we would have a free flow of information," Rep. Robert Wexler, a senior Democrat on the committee, said when he called for McClellan's testimony. As White House spokesman, McClellan defended Bush's policies during much of the war in Iraq, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the scandal that followed the leak of Plame Wilson's identity. He said that the latter episode was a "defining moment that caused me to become dismayed and disillusioned with the way things were going in Washington, D.C." In his memoir, McClellan says the administration became mired in "propaganda" and political spin and played loose with the truth at times.

In his book, McClellan also wrote that President Bush decided to go war with Iraq shortly after the September 11 attacks and then ordered his aides to make the arguments for it. "I think very early on, a few months after September 11, he made a decision that we're going to confront Saddam Hussein, and if Hussein doesn't come fully clean, then we're going to go to war. There was really no flexibility in his approach," McClellan said on NBC's "Today" show, referring to the former Iraqi dictator. "Then it was put on the advisers: How do we go about implementing this; how do we go about doing this?"

And so Scott McClellan has traveled full circle, from a rather colorless apologist for the Bush White House to chief informant as to the excesses of power. Of course, Bush and his followers will protest and question McClelland’s loyalties and motives, but I think history will look very favorably upon his unvarnished look into the goings on inside a White House bent on going to war in Iraq, and to the excesses it will go to to punish those who (like Joseph Wilson) dared oppose these excesses.
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Well, the papers this week are full of stories about the torture our good old Uncle Sam has been up to, and some of its repercussions which are coming back to haunt America’s formerly pristine image worldwide. All of this of course is thanks to guidance from the incomparable Bush-Cheney team, a band who evidently has never accepted the rule of law, but who had constantly preached its own unique interpretation of the Geneva accords. According to Joby Warrick, as published in the Washington Post: A senior CIA lawyer advised Pentagon officials about the use of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees at Guantanamo Bay in a meeting in late 2002, defending waterboarding and other methods as permissible despite U.S. and international laws banning torture, according to documents released yesterday by congressional investigators. Torture "is basically subject to perception," CIA counterterrorism lawyer Jonathan Fredman told a group of military and intelligence officials gathered at the U.S.-run detention camp in Cuba on Oct. 2, 2002, according to minutes of the meeting. "If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong."

The document, one of two dozen released by a Senate panel investigating how Pentagon officials developed the controversial interrogation program introduced at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002, suggests a larger CIA role in advising Defense Department interrogators than was previously known. By the time of the meeting, the CIA already had used waterboarding, which simulates drowning, on at least one terrorism suspect and was holding high-level al-Qaeda detainees in secret prisons overseas – actions that Bush administration lawyers had approved.

And in a closely entwined story Pamela Hess of the Associated Press reports: Medical examinations of former terrorism suspects held by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have found evidence of torture and other abuse that resulted in serious injuries and mental disorders, according to a human rights group. For the most extensive medical study of former U.S. detainees published so far, Physicians for Human Rights had doctors and mental health professionals examine 11 former prisoners. The group alleges finding evidence of U.S. torture and war crimes and accuses U.S. military health professionals of allowing the abuse of detainees, denying them medical care and providing confidential medical information to interrogators that they then exploited.

What a damning pair of stories. Why should such news of the torture of fellow human beings bother our consciences? I mean, they’re only Muslims, right? Well, obviously for those Americans of the Bush/Cheney stripe it doesn’t disturb their conscience, in their eyes terrorist suspects deserve everything we can give them. As satirist Harry Shearer points out in his Beach Boy parody, “Waterboarding U.S.A.”, “Well it may not be legal but it sure as heck makes me safer, and it may not yield useful intel, at least that's what they say, But it's a pleasure so rare, seeing captives gulp air, Let's go waterboardin' USA." The song ends with the plea, “Keep America Number One!”

However, for any of us who were awake in civics class and actually listened to what was being said about living in a free country under the rule of law, what rankles, besides the use of torture itself which has never before been done (at least officially) by our country, and which we pledged not to do when we signed on to the Geneva Conventions, what was wrong about using torture against those in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and those in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is that as yet not one of those men has been charged, much less convicted of anything. They are merely suspected terrorists. Suspected is a strong word, I grant you. And in some cases one or two of them might actually be guilty of what they are suspected of. However, under the rule of law being suspect is not enough, or at least it used to not be enough before B/C changed the rules. Traditionally suspects must first be tried and then convicted in order to be incarcerated. And even then the use of torture is against American law. And especially it was uncalled for in the case of Abu Ghraib for as it turned out many of those prisoners had been picked up simply because of the way they looked, or their attitude. They weren’t guilty of anything except of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What are the chances of Bush/Cheney being brought up before the World Court and tried for willfully breaking the Geneva Conventions? About as much of a chance as it is that they will be called up before the United States Congress and read the articles of impeachment. Although there is a hell of a lot more grounds for which to impeach Bush/Cheney than there ever was to impeach Bill Clinton, let’s face it, Democrats aren’t Republicans, they are wimps at heart, they would not have a strong enough stomach to bring impeachment proceedings against Bush/Cheney no matter how well deserved they might be. It just ain’t gonna happen. And as for the World Court, not a chance, even if hell freezes over tomorrow. For the United States is the World’s 500 Pound Gorilla. And no nation, or combination of nations, is about to bring us before the World Court. We’d probably close down the United Nations and kick the delegates out of the country first.

Dana Milbank, in his column in the Washington Post, reports on the amazing memory loss experienced by the man underlings reported as the true architect for the Abu Ghraib policy: William "Jim" Haynes II, the man who blessed the use of dogs, hoods and nudity to pry information out of recalcitrant detainees, proved to be a model of evasion himself as he resisted all attempts at inquiry by the Armed Services Committee. "My memory is not perfect." "I don't specifically remember when I saw this." "I don't remember doing something with this information." "I don't know precisely when, and I cannot discuss it further without getting into classified information."

According to Milbank, Haynes mixed his forgetfulness with a dash of insolence. He suggested to McCaskill that "it's important that you understand how the Defense Department works." He cut off Reed with a "Let me finish, Senator!" and disclosed that he had been too busy to give more attention to the Geneva Conventions: "I mean, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of decisions made every day. This was one."

Reed, a West Point graduate, was enraged. "You did a disservice to the soldiers of this nation," he said. "You empowered them to violate basic conditions which every soldier respects, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Convention. . . . You degraded the integrity of the United States military."

"I don't recall seeing this memorandum before and I'm not even sure this is one I've seen before. . . . I don't recall seeing this memorandum and I don't recall specific objections of this nature. . . . Well, I don't recall seeing this document, either. . . . I don't recall specific concerns. . . . I don't recall these and I don't recall seeing these memoranda. . . . I can't even read this document, but I don't remember seeing it. . . . I don't recall that specifically. . . . I don't remember doing that. . . . I don't recall seeing these things."

Milbank concludes: It was the most public case of memory loss since Alberto Gonzales, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, forgot everything he ever knew about anything. And, like Gonzales, Haynes (who, denied a federal judgeship by the Senate, left the Pentagon in February for a job with Chevron) had good reason to plead temporary senility.

So what exactly can those of us who disagree with the Bush/Cheney policy do to express our opposition? The answer of course is to vote. There is such a clear cut choice come November. In spite of the fact that John McCain was himself a prisoner of war during Vietnam and has publicly come out against torture and for the closing of Guantanamo Bay, lately he has joined the B/C song and dance critical of the Supreme Court’s majority ruling that terrorist suspects have the same basic human rights as do every other human being in our society. Guantanamo Bay was thought by the Bush administration as a place where prisoners who belonged to no army could be held indefinitely, at the whim of Bush/Cheney. Now thanks to a Supreme Court majority there is no longer any place under American command where prisoners can be held indefinitely. It is either try them or release them. Bush/Cheney whined and sided with the minority which was ready to let the administration’s p0licy to go on forever.

However, you either believe in the rule of law, and act accordingly applying it to everybody, or you don’t. And in spite of Republican pissing and moaning to the contrary, Americans will be every bit as safe, and probably a whole lot safer under a true rule of law such as Obama will return to us, than under a Republican "do everything you can get away with" rule. For one thing, the world will begin to once again look up to America as a moral force in a largely immoral world, not like now when our country is the butt of derision around much of the world. Even our bitterest enemies will likely dim their hatred somewhat if once we again begin standing up for the rights of people, all people. Republicans will prattle on about security because they haven’t the chance of a snowball in hell if they try and run on the issues. And it’s high time, isn’t it, that we have a regime in power in Washington that listens to and respects the opinions of its citizens and which reflects our views, and assists us in our aspirations? Republicans scream loudly when Democrats want to come to the aid of people in trouble, but they quickly line up behind decisions which aid business when it is in trouble. It is certainly high time for a regime that is on our side, that is for damn sure!
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Well it’s beginning to come out why the authorities in Texas were taking such a violent and unprecedented actions against the parents of the FLDS, the polygamist sect whose Texas branch was raided by law enforcement, and all whose children were taken from their parents for two months, until two Texas high courts reviewed their case and ordered them returned to their families. It seems that law enforcement authorities in Utah had been supplying inaccurate information to Texas law enforcement.

An attorney for a polygamous sect is accusing Utah police and prosecutors of abusing their authority and slandering FLDS sect members by passing on bad information about them to Texas authorities. Authorities in Utah sent Texas officials dossiers that described 16 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as threatening religious fanatics who may be willing to die for their cause.

The home of the judge overseeing the case was placed under guard after Texas officials received the dossiers, but there was never any violence from church members. "These are not abstract claims. Your actions harm real people," church attorney Rod Parker wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith and Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap. "We believe it is incumbent upon you to immediately correct these abuses," Parker wrote.

Church dissidents have also played an active role in helping prosecutors, but Parker wrote that authorities have been manipulated by unreliable groups that want to destroy the church. "Time after time, the information those groups have provided you has turned out to be false," Parker wrote. "It is time that you step back from your sources and objectively evaluate the information they are providing you."

Even after being criticized by the Texas Appeals and Supreme Courts and ordered the return of the children, Judge Walther and the CPS put all kinds of restrictions on their return, including full anytime access to all of the children by the CPS agents, and no travel unless it is approved in advance. And what some of us feel was the final indignity was the manner in which the children were returned. Although the Court had originally ripped the children from their parents and bussed them to child care facilities all over the state at government expense, in order to pick up their children the parents were forced to drive themselves at their own expense to those far flung places. I guess Judge Walther felt the sect members were lucky to get the name and location of their children, much less their safe return. Can you spell SOUR GRAPES?
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Apple announced Thursday that its iTunes store has now sold more than 5 billion songs. Earlier this year, it leapfrogged into the No. 1 position as the nation's top music retailer, surpassing even Wal-mart, according to NPD. The iTunes store offers more than 8 million songs for sale online.

The Cupertino iPod and iPhone maker also said that it's renting or selling 50,000 movies a day. Andy Space in his 9t05Mac Blog, also reported that iTunes, Apple’s ubiquitous online music store, has sold over 5 billion songs and repeated its claim to have become the biggest US music retailer, citing data from NPD Group. The company added that its now seeing 50,000 movies purchased and/or rented each day, "making iTunes the world's most popular online movie store," the company added.

iTunes features movies from all of the major movie studios including 20th Century Fox, The Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Lionsgate and New Line Cinema. The iTunes Store now offers over eight million songs, over 20,000 TV episodes and over 2,000 films..
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Well, on that happy note (of Apple completely dominating the digital music market) we come to the end of yet another Little Eddy rant. We nurture our crop of rage during each week,
gathering it from our nation’s news services and after planting it in rich soil we carefully water it for maximum growth, and then each Saturday morning we harvest our week’s crop and send out to you thanks to our Google forefathers. Is this a wonderful world or what? Take care, and have a good week or the best kind.

The Real Little Eddy

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