Monday, June 27, 2005

June 27, 2005

Only If The Shoe Fits…

If you want to drive a Neocon into a frothing rage make any comparison between Vietnam, circa 1964-1975 or Germany, circa 1936-1945. They go ballistic.

To which I say, the Neocons protesteth too much. Suspiciously too much, doth thou not think?

Maybe it’s the steady drumbeat of news like this from today’s paper that’s making them so jumpy.

WASHINGTON, June 23 - Military doctors at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have aided interrogators in conducting and refining coercive interrogations of detainees, including providing advice on how to increase stress levels and exploit fears, according to new, detailed accounts given by former interrogators. … Several ethics experts outside the military said there were serious questions involving the conduct of the doctors, especially those in units known as Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, BSCT, colloquially referred to as "biscuit" teams, which advise interrogators. "Their purpose was to help us break them," one former interrogator told The Times.... (Full Story)

Silly me. I thought a physician’s job was to fix, not break, patients. Yes, I just checked and that’s correct. They are supposed to be solely and exclusively in the fixing business.

And that’s not just US law. The World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo in 1975 prohibits all forms of medical complicity in torture.

And then there’s that quaint oath doctors take when they are ordained, the Hippocratic Oath, which declares, "I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrongdoing."

Dr. Robert Jay Lifton is an expert in such matters, having spent much of his professional life researching and writing about such matters, including the definitive book on misbehaving German doctors during World War II. He is alarmed by what he sees.

“There is increasing evidence that U.S. doctors, nurses, and medics have been complicit in torture and other illegal procedures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. Such medical complicity suggests still another disturbing dimension of this broadening scandal." (More)

It will be difficult for Karl Rove to diss Dr, Lifton. He is Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, City University of New York, as well as at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the Graduate School and University Center, and the Mount Sinai Medical Center. Director of the Center on Violence and Human Survival at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“American doctors at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere have undoubtedly been aware of their medical responsibility to document injuries and raise questions about their possible source in abuse, Dr. Lifton said. “But those doctors and other medical personnel were part of a command structure that permitted, encouraged, and sometimes orchestrated torture to a degree that it became the norm — with which they were expected to comply — in the immediate prison environment.

“The doctors thus brought a medical component to what I call an "atrocity-producing situation" — one so structured, psychologically and militarily, that ordinary people can readily engage in atrocities. Even without directly participating in the abuse, doctors may have become socialized to an environment of torture and by virtue of their medical authority helped sustain it. In studying various forms of medical abuse, I have found that the participation of doctors can confer an aura of legitimacy and can even create an illusion of therapy and healing.”

It’s the proverbial “slippery slope,” for both physicians and America.

Not a Quagmire!
Then there are the “Q” and “V” words.

“It is not, not, not, NOT a quagmire, damn it!”

And, “comparisons to Vietnam are specious! Iraq is NOT Vietnam.”

That’s the Neocon party line, and they are sticking to it – like Captain Ahab to Moby Dick’s back.

"We will succeed in Iraq, just like we did in Afghanistan. We will defeat that insurgency, and, in fact, it will be an enormous success story." (VP Dick Cheney yesterday)

Tell it to the Marines, Dick.

CNN – Baghdad, Friday, June 24, 2005 -- A suicide bomber in a vehicle killed two U.S. Marines and left four troops unaccounted for when it exploded near their convoy in Falluja, the volatile city west of Baghdad, a U.S. military official said Friday. Five of those involved were reported to be women U.S. Marines. (Full Story)

Tell it to the Iraqis, Dick.

"So many problems are happening in the city," said Mohammed Sarhan, 50, a grocer in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora. "Where do I start -- water, electricity, security, unemployment or health? "This is not a life," Sarhan added. "This is hell." (Full Story)

Yo, Dick, try to tell it to your own commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid, who offered an assessment of the Iraqi insurgency that sharply contrasted with your rosey scenario.

(Abizaid) said that the resistance remains about as strong as it was six months ago and acknowledged the possibility that enemy fighters still have sufficient reserves to mount "a military surprise" such as a surge in coordinated attacks. His remarks appeared at odds with a claim last week by Vice President Cheney -- reaffirmed yesterday in an interview with CNN -- that the insurgency is in its "last throes." Pressed on the seeming difference, Abizaid said, "I'm sure you'll forgive me" for not criticizing the vice president.” (Full Story)

But, listen up out there - it’s not a quagmire, damn it. Maybe a “rough patch,” or the “last throes,” – you know how violent last throes can be, right? But a quagmire?
No way, dudes.
Ahhh…dudes… WAY!
Earlier this week White House Rasputin, Karl Rove, declared that after 9/11 liberals wanted to offer counseling or therapy to our attackers. I don’t know any liberal who said that’s what they wanted back then. But I can tell you this; there are plenty of us out here who would like to offer therapy and counseling George, Dick and Donald. When denial and delusion reach the levels displayed by these guys it crossed the line and becomes a recognized mental disorder. (More)

Quote of the Day
“Don’t pee on my leg tell me it’s raining.” (Judge Judy)

Hands Up: Your House or Your Life
Yesterday the Supreme Court sucker punched both liberals and conservatives.

WASHINGTON, June 23 - The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, in one of its most closely watched property rights cases in years, that fostering economic development is an appropriate use of the government's power of eminent domain. (Full Story)

Strangely this issue had traditionally been a cause fought by ultra-conservatives who saw such government “takings” as a gross violation of private property rights. Yet it was a fairly conservative Supreme Court that not only upheld government’s takings rights, but also broadened them.

For the most part condemnation of private properties by local governments had been strictly limited to public projects, such as making room for highways, sewers and utility lines. But yesterday the court said that a city had the right to condemn private homes to make room for new private developments.

Holy land grab Batman! What this means is that now governments, in cahoots with well-heeled – and you can bet, campaign contributing -- contractors can kick you out of your home, farm or business location just because the developer wants to build something on there. What’s the public need being served in such cases? Money… taxes. City and county governments will be able to collect more taxes off the new development.

Maybe US authorities are taking their cue from Zimbabwe's land-grabbing leader, Robert "The Realtor" Mugabe.

HARARE, Zimbabwe - The African Union on Friday sidestepped international demands to act against a so-called urban renewal campaign in Zimbabwe that has left as many as 1.5 million people homeless, while President Robert Mugabe defiantly congratulated police on the operation.... Mugabe ignored the criticism.
"The government is fully behind the cleanup and applauded the police for ensuring the success of the operation," Mugabe said Friday.(Full Story)

The Court's decision will hit states like California particularly hard. Back in the late 1970s so many retired folks were being driven out of their homes by skyrocketing property taxes voters passed Proposition 13. The measure limited tax increases to 1% a year on the value of the property as it was in 1976. As long as you stayed put your taxes could not go up more than 1% a year.

That rule has been a thorn in the side of country treasurers ever since. They lay awake nights trying to figure out how to tack special taxes onto properties to get around Prop. 13, but most of the time taxpayers grab their pitchforks and they back off.

Now they have a real hammer. They can condemn you property to make room for a new development, one that puts more money in country coffers.

And who is going to get slapped with these new “redevelopment condemnations?” The Kennedy’s beachfront Hyanisport mansion to make room for ocean-view condos? The Bush’s Kennebunkport vacation home for a new Radisson Hotel? Jeb Bush’s Florida compound to expand a Disney World attraction? How about the Cheney’s Jackson Hole, Colorado hideaway to be replaced by a luxury resort?

Forgetaboutit. It will be the poor and middleclass who will be herded out of their traditional neighborhoods and homes to make room for “a better element.” And energy companies must be licking their chops now that they can get entire neighbors leveled to make room for refineries or grab pristine privately owned wilderness lands for mining or drilling. All for the public good, of course.

That rustling sound you hear is the sound of developers unrolling aerial maps, marking pens - and political contribution ledgers - in hand. We will not have seen a claim-jumping riot like this since the government opened Oklahoma to settlers.

Your home is no longer a castle. The mote has been filled in. All that now stands between you and losing your home is the right pitch from a well-connected developer to the right politicians.

What an amazing decision – a giant step towards blending corporate and civil governance. An unholy symbiosis of needs; developers need profits and governments need taxes. The incentives are clear. Predictable behavior will follow.

Mark my words. This decision will be abused and, sooner or later, Congress will have to revisit this matter with a law that returns takings to their original purpose – purely public projects.

Have a nice weekend.

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