Fair Use Note

WARNING for European visitors: European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent. As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies. You are responsible for confirming this notice actually works for your blog, and that it displays. If you employ other cookies, for example by adding third party features, this notice may not work for you. Learn more about this notice and your responsibilities.

Thomas Paine

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday News

Metro Track Malfunction May Be Widespread, Officials Say

The train control system designed to prevent Metro crashes is malfunctioning across the railroad, suggesting that a technological failure at the heart of last month's fatal crash might be widespread, according to officials and documents.

This Story

At least a half-dozen track circuits on four of the transit system's five lines have failed to properly detect the presence of trains in recent weeks, records show. The safe operation of a transit system requires that the location of trains be known at all times.

Federal investigators have not pinpointed the cause of the crash, which killed nine and injured 80 when one train rammed into another between the Takoma and Fort Totten stations. The NTSB has said it appears that the train control system did not detect the stopped train and that the following train did not receive a command to slow or stop. On July 13, the NTSB said Metro's train protection system is inadequate and urged the transit agency to add a real-time backup.
Entering your own home while black is now a crime
Henry Louis Gates, one of the most distinguised academicians in the United States, Full Professor at Harvard University, was arrested on Thursday. His crime?

Attempting to enter his own home.

Henry Louis Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct after police said he "exhibited loud and tumultuous behaviour". He was later released.

The head of Harvard's WEB DuBois Institute for African and American Studies, shouted to a police officer "this is what happens to a black men in America" according to a police report.

What D'ya Call a Black Doctor ...?
When these incidents happen, and actually make the news, I see the report, will discuss it a bit with those in my immediate circle, and then go get a sandwich. It is somewhat unremarkable. The remarkable aspect of it is that most of America is wholly unaware of how common this is. This is the rule, and not the exception for most black male adults.

CIA Officials Face Sanctions From Eavesdropping Cover-Up

A federal judge has ruled that CIA officials committed fraud to protect a former covert agent against an eavesdropping lawsuit and is considering sanctioning as many as six who have worked at the agency, including former CIA Director George Tenet.

The judge also criticized CIA Director Leon Panetta, saying he's given conflicting accounts about what should be revealed in the case. The ruling led to the unsealing Monday of more than 200 unclassified versions of classified filings in the 13-year-old case.

"The court does not give the government a high degree of deference because of its prior misrepresentations regarding the state secrets privilege in this case," Lamberth ruled.

Why Gates is Going the Wrong Way: Russia, China and the F-22
The conventional wisdom has been wrong so many times in the last twenty years, dating to the suprise at the difficulties of Communism through NASDAQ and real estate that it is amazing to me that the purveyors of said "wisdom" show their face in public anymore, which moves me to now discuss the F-22.

I can't take it anymore, because they are endangering all of us.

Gates's stated logic for supporting the recent cancelation of the F-22 is that we need more money for weapons systems to fight terrrorism and wars like Afghanistan.

As usual, Gates is way behind the curve, probably because he is an ass-kisser; see the book Great Power by Barnett if you want confirmation of the argument, although Barnett sold his soul to the devil in the Pentagon's New Map before he saw the light.

Russia is back, China is massively increasing its arsenal, and the United States is weakened substantially.
We are misdirecting U.S. defense resources toward "imperial ends" like Afghanistan and Iraq instead of "central balance ends" in a fashion hauntingly similar to Great Britain in the 1930's.

What no plane can match is the ability of the F-22 to establish air superiority, certainly not the supposed replacement, the F-35, which is not even scheduled to be operational until 2013, when it will be too late.

The F-15 will fail over that time period to guarantee the air superiority needed to implement non-nuclear strike options in a Great Power War, making us less, not more, safe by canceling the F-22.

This is a decision we will come to regret as much as the stop-start procurement patterns with the B-1 and B-2 that give us the worst of all worlds: high unit costs and low numbers.

Thus, with the Raptor, like the B-1 and especially the B-2, we will again have spent massive sums on weapons that we are not procuring in sufficient numbers, even given their qualitative edge, to prevail in a Great Power War over Rusia and China.

Take the M-1 A2 Abrams as the proof.

In a confrontation with Russia over Poland, a not unlikely scenario given Kaliningrad and Russian memory, the M-1 A2 would decide the issue, if and only if it had Raptor support to crush the Mig-31 an Mig 35.

The F-15 would now lose that contest, just as it will shortly fail to be able to penetrate Russian client airspace with SAM's, like Iran.

That is the conceptual flaw of a Great Power like the United States having its military procurement patterns driven by the low end of the conflict spectrum, because the real asymmetry in warfare is the fact that weapons systems for high intenstity war can always have uses in low intensity war to a much greater extent than vice versa.

In the end, Great Power Politics is life and death.
Life at the Edge: Great Barrier Reef Could Be World's 1st Gobal Ecosystem to Collapse
After being a highly successful life form for 250 million years, disruptions in the biological and communication systems of coral reefs have been found to be the underlying cause of the coral bleaching and collapse of reef ecosystems around the world.
The problems facing coral reefs are huge, and increasing. They are being pressured by changes in ocean temperature, pollution, overfishing, sedimentation, acidification, oxidative stress and disease, and the synergistic effect of some of these problems may destroy reefs even when one cause by itself would not. Some estimates have suggested 20 percent of the world's coral reefs are already dead and an additional 24 percent are gravely threatened.

Future Of Western U.S. Water Supply Threatened By Climate Change

As the West warms, a drier Colorado River system could see as much as a one-in-two chance of fully depleting all of its reservoir storage by mid-century assuming current management practices continue on course, according to a new University of Colorado at Boulder study.

Don't Be So Square

Safety. Intersections are perhaps the single most dangerous environment in traffic. According to the Federal Highway Administration, more than one-fifth of all traffic fatalities happen at intersections. If you think the problem is a lack of signals, think again. Reports FHWA: "Only 10% of all intersections are signalized, but nearly 30% (2,744) of intersection fatalities occurred at signalized intersections."

Roundabouts are safer than traditional intersections for a simple reason: By dint of geometry and traffic rules, they reduce the number of places where one vehicle can strike another by a factor of four. They also eliminate the left turn against oncoming traffic—itself one of the main reasons for intersection danger—as well as the prospect of vehicles running a red light or speeding up as they approach an intersection to "beat the light."

Remember the day when President Barack Obama promised that concerned citizens would be able to track "every dime" of stimulus money online? He was talking about the official government website, Recovery.gov.

Which doesn't have any details about contracts or grants yet—and won't until October 2009 or, more likely, sometime next year, long after the thrill of living is gone and a huge chunk of the $787 billion stimulus package has already been frittered away on "shovel-ready" projects such as the John Murtha-Johnstown Cambria County Airport (pop. 20 passengers a day).

Thankfully, the folks at the information-services firm Onvia stepped in and created the site Recovery.org, which is already on the case and showing, as much as is possible, who is getting what.

Like Adam Smith's butchers, bakers, and brewers, it's not from Onvia's benevolence that the company is doing this, but from its self-interest: The company puts mostly small and mid-sized firms in touch with local, state, and federal agencies that need some sort of contract work done.

Which might well be the point: The private sector has eaten the feds' lunch on this precisely because they have to hustle in order to keep the wolf from the door. Even, ironically (and frankly disturbingly), when the project is all about chasing government dollars.

On Wednesday, May 13 6, 2009, Reason.tv caught up with Onvia CEO Mike Pickett and asked him about the reaction so far to Recovery.org, his hopes for government accountability and transparency, and whether sunlight really is the best disinfectant.

Approximately 5 minutes. Interview conducted and edited by Dan Hayes at the Heritage Foundation.

Demolish nuclear facilities and support facilities,remediate waste sites,remediate contaminated groundwater Benton,Wa.

President Barack Obama authorizes extended Secret Service guard for former VP Dick Cheney
Waterless urinals miss the mark?

Mute Witness

by Eric Martin

One of Andrew Sullivan's guest bloggers, Chris Bodenner, passes along this chilling account of torture and wrongful detention as perpetrated by the Iranian regime:

Mowj Camp reports that a deaf and mute man was tortured in Evin prison for several days before he was released. “A detainee, who was suspected of pretending to be deaf and mute, was severely tortured for several days to make him speak until finally he was released after a doctor confirmed that he was really deaf and mute.”

Although I'm not sure if it's necessarily a common occurrence, it does stand to wit that detainees that are deaf and mute - or otherwise incapable of communication due to a mental handicap - will have a rougher go at it if a regime practices torture and/or detention without due process. After all, they will almost always appear to be holding out against their interrogators/captors, rather than being incapable of response due to some physical malady. And so they will likely suffer more on multiple levels. This incident reminded me of an episode that Alex Rossmiller describes in his book Still Broken. From a review I wrote:

Toward the end of Rossmiller's rotation in Iraq, he was brought in to help with some detainee in-processing - he had been tracking some insurgent activity, and earlier that night there had been a raid conducted using his intel.

One of the soldiers came over to the main table, his face tired but his eyes alert.

"We didn't' find the guys we were looking for, but grabbed some dudes at the targets' houses and then did some follow-on ops, too. We've got around forty or fifty coming in," he declared.

This news was alarming. Some of the evidence against our targets was questionable to begin with, and now we had dozens of guys who just happened to be in the houses we hit? In an environment filled with bad sources, double-dealings, a lack of knowledge of culture and language, and endless cases of mistaken identity, it was likely that few if any of our detainees were involved in the insurgency, and probably none would have intelligence value. I figured we would have to let most of them go.

Rossmiller was wrong of course. Instead, the deeply traumatized and humiliated prisoners were shipped off to Abu Ghraib prison - where they will remain imprisoned for months or years without formal charges or contact with the outside world. The process resembles a Catch 22 of sorts: anyone picked up in the field is sent to Abu Ghraib because those doing the initial processing figure that Abu Ghraib will sort out the insurgents from those wrongly detained. Yet at Abu Ghraib, the SOP is to assume that all incoming detainees are guilty and thus detain them for at least three months. Rossmiller captures the impact of these techniques on counterinsurgency efforts. He points out the dubiousness of these practices to one of the participating soldiers, and the soldier replies:

"Yeah, well, we'll get affidavits that they all had weapons and resisted detention, and that's enough to lock 'em up for a while. Anyway, if they're off the streets, they're not setting IEDs, right?"

"I guess," I replied. But if they weren't before, they would be when they got out.

It actually gets worse. Throughout the grueling and time consuming processing, as several of the detainees try in vain to ascertain the charges against them, some begin to ask, out of concern, about another detainee (the brother of some, cousin of others) who is mentally handicapped and/or deaf and mute. Later in the evening, Rossmiller sees some soldiers attempting to interrogate a detainee who stands mute, confused and otherwise fits the description of the mentally challenged detainee. Rossmiller tries to intervene and explain the situation, to no avail. "Naw, he's fuckin' faking. I'm sending him to Abu G," is the only response he gets. Perfect.
Toward the end of the night, one of the detainees asked for permission to speak, and was eventually granted that right. What he said left an indelible mark on Rossmiller:

"When you came to our country, we hoped law would return. We still have that hope."

Rossmiller recalls:

That day I saw an entire family of brothers sent away - seven in all, I think. One of them was almost certainly retarded...A civilized country and a civilized people cannot presume guilt. Guilt without evidence is anathema to a functioning civil society, and rule of law is vital to win a war that is more about minds than weapons or troops. Pragmatically, a system that incarcerates scores of innocents is a broken one, destined to be fought by those it victimizes.

Although it borders on banal in the extreme to have to point this out, but detention without due process combined with torture will lead to all manner of horror story. And yet our government willingly put us in the same company as Iran's regime in this regard. Lovely.

Comments from Left Field

The Torture Investigation Mystery Show

So there’s been a lot of speculation in blogtopia about Attorney General Eric Holder’s reportedly renewed intentions of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the authorization and use of torture in the previous administration. The speculation — which revolves around the question of who Holder intends to prosecute, more than whether he intends to prosecute — has been fueled by these three articles:

  1. Daniel Klaidman’s piece, published Saturday in Newsweek, which reported that AG Holder had returned to the possibility of prosecutions.
  2. Carrie Johnson’s Washington Post article titled “Probe of Alleged Torture Weighed,” published on Sunday, which speculated that any investigation would be limited to CIA interrogators who had gone beyond the “guidelines” prescribed by the Bush lawyers.
  3. Scott Horton’s “Torture Prosecution Turnaround?” published in The Daily Beast, also yesterday. which suggested that the scope of prosecutions, if they happened, would be wider.

I certainly agree with Tim, Glenn, and Spencer that if investigations and/or prosecutions are going to be limited to low-hanging fruit, it would be better not to do anything at all. But I don’t think it’s at all clear that’s what Holder has in mind.

Keep in mind, first, that — as Glenn himself pointed out – the predictions as to what Holder will do in both articles — Johnson’s and Horton’s — are being made by anonymous sources. I’m not going to take any claims seriously that come from sources without names or identities attached to them. It’s not even that I think these people are unreliable, whoever they are. I’m sure they are high-ranking officials who know Holder well. But no matter who they are, if they are anonymous, they might as well be no one, because there’s no accountability. No other journalist can call them up and confirm what they said. So they can say whatever they want, but it has no gravitas until they are identified.

And that leads me to the other reason I don’t take these claims about Holder’s intentions seriously: They’re not meant seriously. They’re meant to test the waters. Isn’t that what corporate journalism is about these days? Anonymous sources test-driving major decisions by calling reporters at major papers and sending out trial balloons?

It can actually be entertaining sometimes to see how reporters for top national papers parse the reasons for not naming the sources. There’s a whole structure and style to presenting sources anonymously. First, there is the obligatory first mention, “…according to three sources. …” This is usually included in the opening paragraph, but sometimes it’s the second or third. Then, several paragraphs further down in the article, you get the “reason” why these sources are not being identified. And I put “reason” in quotes because, obviously, there’s only one reason. But Carrie Johnson can’t very well tell us that her sources would only agree to speak to her on background “because they don’t want to be held responsible for the information they’re leaking.” So instead, she writes that the sources “spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing process.”

Thank you to Digby for inspiring the above rant by saying exactly what I had been thinking (in the first Update to her post about the Brain Trust at This Week With George Stephanopoulos).

Count the Strawmen

1. The Democrats still want to blame the Bush administration for the economy.

2. The Democrats want to dismantle the CIA.

3. Nancy Pelosi is looking for political cover.

4. It’s not unusual for president and vice-president to be involved.

5. The CIA is in the secrecy business and Congress wants to know everything.

(And one dodge: “I don’t have enough information.”)

Via Think Progress.

The IG Warrantless Surveillance Report
Here is a roundup of commentary about the report (h/t Glenn), which came out on Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment