Archive for October 2nd, 2006|Daily archive page

When Saying You’re Sorry Isn’t Enough

Some people can’t do anything right.

I’m sure that’s what Senator George Allen is thinking (or at least thinking about his speech writers). The Washington Post has an article showing that now even the Sons of Confederate Veterans are a bit grumpy with the good ol’ Senator.

“What I was slow to appreciate and wish I had understood much sooner,” Allen told a black audience last month, “is that this symbol [the confederate battle flag] . . . is, for black Americans, an emblem of hate and terror, an emblem of intolerance and intimidation.”

Now, even that statement is getting him into trouble.

“He’s apologizing to others, certainly he should apologize to us as well,” said B. Frank Earnest Sr., the Virginia commander of the confederate group at a news conference. “We’re all aware, ourselves included, of the statements that got him into this. The infamous macaca statement. He’s using our flag to wipe the muck from his shoes that he’s now stepped in.”

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! – Sorry. Too good for further commentary.

Heads Up: Laura Rozen/War and Piece

Heads Up:On the Scent

Sharon Weinberger has an interesting post up at DefenseTech (and her own blog) outlining a DoD PR SNAFU. (Gotta love those acronyms.)

I was clearing out my in-box when I noticed this note: “EDITORS ALERT: The American Forces Press Service recalls the article titled “DoD Officials Urge Use of Non-lethal Weapons in Terror War” by Jim Garamone, published Sept. 27, 2006. The article contains inaccurate information and should not be used.”

Usually, news services correct innacurate information. The Armed Forces Press Service didn’t do this, however, they just withdrew the entire article from their site. The great thing about the Internet, however, is that the article lives on through other websites. I’ve attached the full article below.

The post and the update from Noah are both worth reading.

Remember those slippery ethical slopes? Good to know someone is following the scent of those chemical weapons.

Death knell for the death sentence

The LA Times has been covering the legal back and forth on the use of lethal injections as a way of to administering the death penalty in California. The outlook of this case seems increasingly bleak for those supporting the government’s right to kill.

Operational Procedure No. 770,” the state’s name for execution by lethal injection, is performed in a dark, cramped room by men and women who know little, if anything, about the deadly drugs they inject under extreme stress.

Thousands of pages of depositions and four days of testimony last week in a federal courtroom here provided the most intimate portrait yet of a state’s lethal injection methods.

Witnesses depicted executions by lethal injection — long considered a more humane alternative to the gas chamber or the electric chair — as almost haphazard events, and medical experts on both sides could not rule out the possibility that one or more inmates had been conscious and experienced an excruciating sensation of drowning or strangulation before death.

I’ll wait for another entry to talk about my complete feelings about the death penalty but the issue, as presented to the judge in this case, is becoming increasingly clear. By compartmentalizing the execution procedure in order to limit the responsibilities of each individual participant, the state of California (and probably most other states using a similar form of execution) has managed to produce an inhumane and bungled mess. It was this inhumanity that lethal injection was meant to rectify.

My tie-in to this case is on a slightly different level. The current Californian brouhaha was started when a judge ordered two anesthesiologists present during executions. The doctors refused at last minute due to ethical concerns. I’m currently reading The Nazi Doctors by Robert Jay Lifton. He traces the medicalization of euthanasia in the Third Reich from the beginnings on deformed and handicapped children to the horrors of Auschwitz. I didn’t start reading the book to understand the death penalty, but rather to understand how medics and doctors can continue to support the torture policies being railroaded by the Bush administration. Bending ethical issues is a long and slippery slope and I wonder if the American government and the American medical community haven’t started sliding. The case in California seems to be proving that hypothesis wrong.

Just as an aside, for those who claim executions are only practiced in ‘Twenty-First Century’ countries, please remember that the Japanese Supreme Court recently cleared the way for the execution of an Aum Shinrikyo cult member convicted for the 1994 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway. The US is not alone in executing people, but the US does stand alone in claiming to be on the highest moral ground in the world. Perhaps a new look at this standpoint would be in order.

Somehow I doubt that controversies surrounding the standpoint on the death penalty will die down anytime soon.

Mail Problems?

It seems the GOP has gotten itself into yet another fine mess. Even after managing to waft off the Abramoff stench and managing to bait and switch that silly torture issue, somehow nothing is going quite right this election period.

Yes, I’m referring to the Mark Foley e-mail meltdown.

This would be bad enough if Foley hadn’t been co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus. It might have stopped with the major ick factor caused when someone finds out he only approached former pages. But as Justin Rood at TPM Muckrakcer very rightly asks “Why Wasn’t Foley Stopped?” Several outlets are reporting that this behaviour was known at high levels in the Republican party. Not only was it not stopped, the party allowed Foley to run in his Florida district. Thus, one can only assume this kind of behaviour is tacitly accepted at the highest levels of the GOP. The problem probably would have continued.

Now this should be something the Democrats can safely hammer on the next couple of weeks. But I doubt it will work. I wonder what the Republicans will use for the next shiny light attracting voters into deep, dark, murky, political waters.

Nevertheless, it seems the Republicans have some major good ol’ boy  homosexual e-mail problems.

Airbus A380 Stalling?

Spiegel Online is reporting a major restructuring in store for Airbus.

“Power 08” is supposed to be the name of the new restructuring concept for Airbus according to several newspapers today. The plan will be discussed today and tomorrow by the EADS  board of directors, which is Airbus’ parent concern. “Les Echos” reports that the plan will be presented to the employees on Wednesday.

According to the plan, the production of the aircraft manufacturer would be completely reorganized. The paper reports that long range aircraft would only be built in Toulouse. This would mean the end of the A380 production in Finkenwerder [Hamburg] where in the future the entire production of A320 would be concentrated.

In addition, the report continues by explaining that more work sould be outsourced to external partners. Thus, about 30 percent of the A350 and 15 percent of the A380 would be outsourced – even to Chinese and Russian companies. This would mean savings of not only about two billion (or for the English millard) Euros per year but reduce the development times for new aircraft by approximately 40 percent. [my translation]

This is a result of the problems with the construction of the A380. The delivery of the new class of super-sized passenger plane has already been postponed, a major image loss for the new class of aircraft. This delay was followed earlier this year with a management purge shake up costing the top people their jobs. (Don’t worry, I’m sure they got nice severance packages and aren’t looking for work. Poor managers – it’s just hire and fire.)

This change seems to be the final reaction to the chaos.

One of the sad parts of this story, is that environmental groups fought the construction of the enlarged landing strip in Hamburg for several years. They lost and some of Hamburg’s Alster (a recreational lake in the city) was filled in to make landing strips.

I’m not always on the side of the environmental groups, but in the case of an urban recreation area vs. a new iffy class of aircraft, I’d  agree with the tree huggers. One of the arguments used against the construction project was exactly that the project wasn’t safe enough. The A380 wasn’t proven to be an economical success and even the market for the airliner is rather uncertain. Airbus went ahead despite warnings.

Anyway, it’s all just water under the landing strip now; even if the A380 doesn’t really take off.

Outlawing Dover

I get Bob Parks ‘What’s new’ newsletter in my mailbox every Friday. (Note: you can subscribe here. That’s not a nudge-nudge-wink-wink thing. It’s a do-it-or-I’ll-go-find-a-cricket-bat thing. Just so you know.)

Anyway. What to my wondering eyes should appear in the most recent newsletter? 


The nation was distracted this week: the leaked Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, a terrifying new report on global warming, continued high gas prices, a White House lobbying scandal that grew from “a few” contacts with Jack Abramoff to 485, not to mention the news that two men have stepped forward claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby.  That allowed the House to quietly pass H.R. 2679, the “Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act of 2006,” with scarcely a mention in the media.
The bill would prevent plaintiffs from recovering legal costs in any lawsuit based on the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, which of course only happens when the court finds the plaintiff’s Constitutional rights have been denied.  The Senate is expected to pass a companion bill, S. 3696.  Congress cannot simply abridge the Bill of Rights.  Maybe they think the Supreme Court is stacked.  Or maybe it’s the election.

After cleaning the coffee off my monitor and extracting large quantity of liquid from my nose, I started thinking. Was this just a Republican sneak-something-through-Congress-without-anyone-noticing? Were do you look? Well the Washington Post has a really nice database of votes*.

Going to the H.R. 2679 bill we find the following breakdown: 

     Republicans        Opposed: 6       Approved: 218        Not voting: 6
     Democrats          Opposed: 166   Approved: 26          Not voting: 6
     Democrats          Opposed: 1        Approved: 0

Twenty-six Democrats voted in favor of this! Excuse me?!

Who were these people pandering to the religious right?! WP gives us the list.

John Barrow
Marion Berry
Dan Boren
Allen Boyd
Dennis Cardoza
Jim Costa
Bud Cramer
Henry Cuellar
Lincoln Davis
Bart Gordon
Stephanie Herseth
Rubén Hinojosa
Daniel Lipinski
Jim Marshall
Jim Matheson
Mike McIntyre
Charles Melancon
Solomon Ortiz
Collin Peterson
Nick Rahall
Mike Ross
John Salazar
David Scott
Ike Skelton
John Spratt
Gene Taylor

This is really important. Kitzmiller  and the ACLU could not have litigated in Dover without being able to claim damages. If this law stands, we need to get ready for a major push to get Creationists, ID-iots and Controversials** onto school boards. There would be next to no judicial defense at that point. If your congressperson is listed above, please write and complain about the vote. Please write to your Senator expressing your displeasure in S. 3696.

Remember, Dover cost the school district several million dollars in damages. These damages were only to cover the costs the plaintiffs incurred. No one made money in Dover. The DASB listened to the Thomas Moore Law Center who promised to do the case ‘for free’ (probably without mentioning the pesky damages thing) and lost. Indeed had the school board listened to their normal counsel, the entire thing would never have come to court. If the board had passed something marginally legal, normal counsel had represented the district and the district still lost – the case would have been covered by insurance. As things went, the old board was voted out and the new board was saddled with a huge bill. The people responsible for the debacle are long gone.

In conclusion, the problem wasn’t the plaintiffs, the problem was with the school board. I’ll just quote Judge Jones’ decision (pdf, 139 pages, a must read).

 The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an
alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources. [emphasis in original]

Remember, if you outlaw the first amendment, only outlaws will have first amendment rights.

*My only problem with the WP Database is that it also finds it necessary to list the votes by astrological sign.
** I’m still looking for a nice snappy verbal slap-down for the ‘Just-Teach-The-Controversy’ crowd herd.