I've got a new "Think Again" column called "Just One DOJ Scandal? Does the MSM have BAADD?" here. It's pretty interesting, by the way, and about stuff I didn't even know until my researcher, Tim, mentioned it to me.
My friend Carroll Bogert, a human rights activist, spent last summer in Russia following the fates of seven ex-Guantànamo detainees who were sent home there against their will in March 2004. The story she found is a really disconcerting one, and not merely because Russian cops are not so nice. It also demonstrates that the Bush administration's latest dodge around international law -- "diplomatic assurances" that countries with torture records won't torture ex-detainees from Guantànamo -- is a complete sham. These "assurances" aren't worth the paper they're written on, and the Russian experience proves it.
Here is part of her report:
Former Guantanamo detainees who were sent home to Russia in 2004 experienced torture and other abuse despite Moscow's pledge to the U.S. government that they would be treated humanely, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.
The Russian prisoners' experience illustrates why the United States should stop relying "diplomatic assurances" of fair treatment to justify sending prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to countries where they are at risk of torture.
The seven Russians were all detained soon after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and eventually spent about two years in Guantanamo. Although they complained of mistreatment by the Americans, all of the detainees repeatedly asked authorities at Guantanamo not to be returned to Russia because they expected to be treated worse there. And indeed, three of them experienced serious torture and ill-treatment after being arrested in Russia. Two of them were convicted at unfair trials; and all of them have been harassed and hounded by Russian law enforcement.
The Convention against Torture stipulates that no person may be sent back to a country where he is at real risk of torture and allows no exceptions on national security or other grounds. The United States is a party to the Convention and is therefore violating international law in transferring prisoners to countries where they may face torture. A U.S. government statement to Human Rights Watch made it clear that Washington was aware of the threat of torture in Russia.
Many countries are attempting to deport or extradite terrorism suspects with "diplomatic assurances" as well, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Austria, Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Upon the return of the detainees in March 2004, the Russian government stated publicly that it would prosecute them on terrorism charges and that it would treat them humanely. It did neither. After three months in Russian custody, during which they were not abused, all seven were released and attempted to resume normal lives in Russia, which proved impossible.
Rasul Kudaev, a resident of Kabardino-Balkaria in southern Russia, was detained after an armed uprising in the provincial capital in October 2005. According to photographs, medical records, court documents, and the testimony of lawyers and family members, Kudaev was repeatedly beaten in custody in an effort to compel him to confess to involvement in the uprising. In a rare display of judicial independence, a local court has ordered prosecutors to reconsider their decision not to investigate Kudaev's claims of abuse. He has still not been prosecuted for his alleged role in the uprising, but remains in custody nearly a year and a half later.
Ravil Gumarov and Timur Ishmuratov, both residents of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, were detained in April 2005 in connection with an explosion on a local gas pipeline in which no one was killed or injured. They were beaten in custody until they confessed; Gumarov was deprived of sleep for approximately one week and shackled to a small cage with his hands over his head, among other abuses.
Gumarov and Ishmuratov recanted their confessions at trial and were acquitted by the jury in September 2005. However, local prosecutors got the verdict "annulled" and won a conviction in May 2006. Although a suspect in another crime confessed to the explosion, local prosecutors never shared that information with lawyers for the ex-Guantanamo detainees.
Two of the detainees told Human Rights Watch that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo had threatened to send them back to Russia if they did not divulge information about their alleged terrorist activities.
The detainees and their families described frequent harassment by Russian police and security services, particularly the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, and the organized Crime Department of the Ministry of the Interior. "I was told many times [by Russian authorities] that after my time in Guantanamo, it wasn't necessary to prove I was a terrorist," former detainee Airat Vakhitov told Human Rights Watch. "That any one of us could be thrown in jail because we were terrorists."
The 43-page report, "The 'Stamp of Guantanamo': The Story of Seven Men Betrayed by Russia's Diplomatic Assurances to the United States," reconstructs the experiences of the detainees after being returned to Russia in March 2004, based on interviews with three of the detainees, their family members, lawyers, and others. Access to the ex-detainees is limited because three of them are in prison, three are in hiding, and the only one currently at large in Russia does not wish to give interviews. You can read it here.
"Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch," or so argue Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt in The Washington Post today, here. Turns out that much of this scandal is really about justifying voter registration restrictions that effectively keep huge numbers of voters -- disproportionate numbers of which are low-income, people of color and young, newly registered voters -- off the voting rolls.
Scarier than Night of the Living Dead (but profoundly more worrying, and not as well written or acted, alas).
As Media Matters for America has noted, Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen's March 27 article, "Rookie Mistakes Plague Obama," was apparently flagged by Matt Drudge's website, The Drudge Report, approximately one hour before The Politico posted the article on its website on the evening of March 26. John Harris, Politico editor-in-chief, has written about the media's interest in having their work linked to on the Drudge Report. Several commentators, including blogger Glenn Greenwald, have noted an apparent tendency of Drudge to link to Politico items. Media Matters has reviewed the Drudge Report Archives and found that since The Politico launched on January 23, Drudge has linked to Politico items on at least 45 separate occasions.
THE FCC AND ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS' CONTINUING LEGACY [SOURCE: PR Watch, AUTHOR: Diane Farsetta] [Commentary]
On March 14, House Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell asked FCC Chairman Kevin Martin about the status of the agency's ongoing Armstrong Williams investigation. Williams is a conservative commentator who was retained by the U.S. Education Department, as a subcontractor of the public relations firm Ketchum, to promote the No Child Left Behind Act. Williams' $240,000 government contract and his failure to disclose it, first reported on by USA Today's Greg Toppo in January 2005, spurred public outrage and calls for accountability. To date, two government reports on Williams have been released -- both late on a Friday, presumably to limit media coverage of them. In May 2005, the Education Department's Office of Inspector General stated that it had "found no evidence of any ethical violations," though it admitted there were "poor management decisions," and "poor judgment and oversight." In September 2005, the Government Accountability Office issued a harsher assessment, finding that aspects of the Education Department's contract with Ketchum violated federal law. "The Department violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition when it issued task orders to Ketchum directing it to arrange for Mr. Williams to regularly comment on the NCLB Act without requiring Ketchum to ensure that Mr. Williams disclosed to his audiences his relationship with the Department," concluded the GAO. Meanwhile, the FCC's investigation into the Williams affair remains open. However, Rep. Dingell's recent questioning of FCC Chair Martin did reveal new information, as well as establish a mandate for yet another report, on the status of the agency's ongoing investigation.
NET NEUTRALITY' STRIKES CORD WITH COALITION OF MUSICIANS [SOURCE: Technology Daily, AUTHOR: Michael Martinez]
A coalition of musicians announced a campaign that they hope will rock the nationwide debate over the future of high-speed Internet networks. The "Rock The Net" campaign is being backed by musicians who want Congress to mandate network neutrality, or the principle that broadband network operators should treat all traffic equally. The coalition includes several high-profile artists from varying musical genres, including R.E.M. and OK Go, the band that recently took home the "most creative" trophy in the inaugural awards by the YouTube video-sharing site. Rock The Net is being organized by the Future of Music Coalition, Noise Pop and Zeitgeist Artist Management, and funded by the Proteus Fund's Media Democracy Fund. A series of concerts throughout the country will be held by participating artists to raise awareness on the issue. Media Access Project President Andrew Schwartzman said that for musicians, network neutrality is just as much about uploading content as it is downloading. He said artists should be able to upload without facing higher prices for certain content so they can take advantage of social media and distribute their works. "It really involves people's right to speak as much as it involves their ability to receive information," he said.
CHILDREN'S TV ADS LOADED WITH JUNK FOOD [SOURCE: Associated Press]
In a child's buffet of food commercials, more than 40 percent of the dishes are candy, snacks and fast food. Nowhere to be found: fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry or seafood. For years, health officials have warned that kids were being inundated with commercials about not-so-healthy foods. Now, researchers have put numbers to those warnings in the largest-ever study of commercials aimed at children. "The vast majority of the foods that kids see advertised on television today are for products that nutritionists would tell us they need to be eating less of, not more of, if we're going to get a handle on childhood obesity," said Vicki Rideout of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducts health research. Children ages 8-12 see the most food ads on TV -- an average of 21 a day, or 7,600 a year. Teenagers see slightly fewer -- 17 a day, or about 6,000 a year; and children ages 2-7 see the fewest -- 12 a day or 4,400 a year.
- Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States
- Kaiser Study: Tweens See Most Food Ads
- Forced Feeding
- Study Says Junk Food Still Dominates Youth TV
- No sugarcoating this: Kids besieged by food ads
- Study finds TV feeds children plenty of junk
STUDY FINDS FCC SPECTRUM AUCTIONS ANTI-COMPETITIVE [SOURCE: WirelessIQ]
A new study filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finds that the FCC's use of auctions for assigning spectrum licenses could be subject to anti-competitive behavior by incumbent carriers. The study performed by Dr. Simon Wilkie, former chief economist at the FCC and current head of the University of Southern California Center for Communications Law and Policy, reviews past auction results and finds that auctions do not work in all circumstances to secure for the public the benefits of the efficient use of spectrum as the law requires the FCC to do. For example, in the recent AWS auctions, the study found that 98% of the spectrum in major metropolitan areas went to incumbents, effectively shutting out any new entrants. _Spectrum Auctions are not a Panacea: Theory and Evidence of Anti- Competitive and Rent Seeking Behavior in FCC Rulemakings and Auction Design_ identified and analyzed four anti-competitive tactics that incumbents use to manipulate the spectrum auction process: 1) Strategically warehousing spectrum in order to prevent entry for potential competitors; 2) Delaying the decision-making process at the FCC by drawing out debates over service rules and unquantifiable arguments over technical matters and other means: 3) Adopting a no holds barred bidding strategy to block new entrants in auctions with insufficient safeguards against incumbent carriers' potentially anti-competitive tactics, and no caps on the overall amount of spectrum that incumbents may hold; and 4) Slicing new available bands for private commercial use that make it more costly or impossible to build a viable national competitive business plan to challenge the incumbents' dominant position.
INCOME GAP WIDENS, DATA SHOWS [SOURCE: New York Times, AUTHOR: David Cay Johnston]
Income inequality grew significantly in 2005, with the top 1 percent of Americans -- those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 -- receiving their largest share of national income since 1928. The top 10 percent, roughly those earning more than $100,000, also reached a level of income share not seen since before the Depression. While total reported income in the United States increased almost 9 percent in 2005, the most recent year for which such data is available, average incomes for those in the bottom 90 percent dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172, or 0.6 percent. The gains went largely to the top 1 percent, whose incomes rose to an average of more than $1.1 million each, an increase of more than $139,000, or about 14 percent. The new data also shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.
Anybody else see the Allmans in a bar last night? Well, a big bar (Irving Plaza, next door to The Nation, as it happens), and only two songs, at least by 12:30, but still ...
Name: Victor L. Harpley
Hometown: Cromwell, Connecticut
Is it possible for links that require subscriptions to access be denoted as such?
Eric replies: That's what the "$" symbol next to the item is supposed to mean, thanks.
You must be recalling Robert Ferrell's Journal of American History (Dec. 1986) review of Muravchik's book about Jimmy Carter. I'd send it to you but I don't think this e-mail box thing you have down here allows that sort of thing.
Here's the, um, money quote: "The second perplexity is not so much its use by the author as a doctoral dissertation but its acceptance as a piece of scholarship by the Georgetown faculty. The book can stand on its own as an essay on a first-rate subject. But despite its many footnotes it has no scholarly foundation." In academic parlance, I think that's called getting owned.
For my money, the review that appeared in the American Political Science Review (Sept. 1987) is even better. The reviewer there -- David Forsythe -- described Muravchik's book as, variously, "largely predictable, ideological, and unpersuasive" ... "superficial and incomplete"... and "thin." Best line: "A reader may be forgiven for wondering at times whether the book is a justification for the Spanish-American War or Woodrow Wilson's mythical crusade for democracy, rather than an interpretation of Carter's human-rights policy." Ah, those neocons -- you can't say they're not persistent.
Eric replies: Wow. Good work.
P.S. Here's more:
The second perplexity is not so much its use by the author as a doctoral dissertation but its acceptance as a piece of scholarship by the Georgetown faculty. The book can stand on its own as an essay on a first-rate subject. But despite its many footnotes it has no scholarly foundation. State Department records are of course closed. President Carter has not opened his personal papers. Muravchik is reduced to a few interviews and quoting Elizabeth Drew, Ben Wattenberg, and Stanley Hoffmann. The last has a perch at Harvard, but that doesn't mean everything he says is reliable.
-- Robert H. Ferrell, review of The Uncertain Crusade: Jimmy Carter and the Dilemmas of Human Rights Policy, Journal of American History 73, no. 3 (December 1986): 817-8.
One thing about Specter that has either been forgotten or determined insignificant: he was the Warren Commission attorney charged with reconstructing the crime, and as such invented the Magic Bullet. So Jordan in Seattle should not be surprised by his gyrations and contortions in the Senate.
Perhaps someone smarter than I can explain how someone can inform the Senate judicial committee that they WILL be pleading the 5th Amendment without yet knowing what the questions they will be asked are?
I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that one of the provisions of the 5th Amendment (funny how members of this administration seem to value THEIR rights under the Constitution) allows someone to avoid being forced to testify against themselves, to incriminate themselves of a crime. But how can you testify against yourself without knowing exactly what the question is? What if the only question being asked is whether or not she is a member of the current administration and what her role is. Personally, I'd like to see the "political theater" of her pleading the 5th over and over to each question asked of her by the Senate committee over a span of say, a few hours!
One other point, if you don't mind.
For those who deem it appropriate to question the behavior of the Edwards family in continuing their campaign, it seems to me that we have many people who leave their children behind (and sometimes sick and ailing loved ones), often with the knowledge that they might die before returning to them, sacrificing what might be their last moments with loved ones, because they believe in serving their country. "Some people" might call them heroes, and I don't think that you have to wear a uniform to be one of them. "Some people " might consider Ms. Couric and others who question the Edwards' motives as being unpatriotic, and "not supportive of our troops" when the country is at war! When did it become a liability to sacrifice yourself in the name of doing what you believe is right for your country?
It appears to me that everyone is playing right into Joe Klein's hand. Like Ann Coulter, he will say anything outrageous to get air time, which brings money his way.
Seems to me the best hurt you could put on Klein is to ignore him. Don't give him any print whatsoever. That, or take a page out of the pundit manual and make some made-up statement in which Ann Coulter calls Joe Klein a name, one like she can only make up, and get the two of them jousting in front of the public eye.
It sure is a crazy world when you get in trouble for voting to end the Iraq War.
Here in Minnesota, Rep. Keith Ellison is in hot water with anti-war protesters that previously supported him because of his vote for the Iraq Spending Bill requiring all troops to leave Iraq by August 2008. While I agree with the anti-war protesters in general, I think that they suffer from tunnel-vision in this case. In their view, any bill that doesn't accomplish everything that they want isn't acceptable, even if it accomplishes half of what they want. They hold out for the perfect bill while sacrificing what can be accomplished now.
The fact is, this bill helps the Democrats immensely, while forcing the Republicans to vote against (and veto) a bill funding the troops. If I was a campaign manager for a Democrat running next year against a incumbant Republican, I would be overjoyed at this opportunity. This is the toughest anti-war bill to come out yet, and tying it to the war funding is simply smart politics. Crafting a bill cutting off all funding now wouldn't have gone anywhere and would be viewed as a defeat for anti-war Democrats. This is all explained here and here.
It take a talented group of Democrats to turn what looks like a defeat into a victory, and I'm glad that Keith Ellison is one of them.
Good comments from Simon King on the subject of trade agreements and their effects on illegal immigration. Fervent free traders will go on ad nauseam about how the market will ultimately decide what works and what doesn't, and how it is always wrong for government to interfere. They're wrong, of course, for a simple reason. Nothing stops companies from doing what's beneficial to them individually, but destructive to society as a whole. Of course it's beneficial for a company to seek out decreased costs; that's a given. Unfortunately our manufacturing base has been lost in the U.S. The majority of those workers have only found employment at a greatly reduced standard of living. Free traders would argue that the lost buying power is of no consequence because the people in other countries who now have those jobs will become consumers. The new consumers rev up the economic machine and ultimately everyone is better off. Nice theory, but it won't happen as long as factory workers in developing countries spend their spare time picking through landfills for cardboard and sheet metal to build their homes. Free trade as it is currently practiced is of short-term benefit to the balance sheets of international corporations but damaging to the world economy over the long term. The world is not competing to become the next Silicon Valley, it is in a race to equality with Indonesia. Ironically, the promised benefits of free trade will only become real when governments realize what's really needed is fair trade. Require that workers in other countries be paid a minimum standard of living to earn reduced trade barriers. Those workers will want to stay home with their families and friends, and gain a new taste for consumer products. Our economy will gain from decreased downward pressure on wages and increased economic activity throughout the world. Unfortunately, we'll never get there as long as the debate is dominated by those who believe all government is unnecessary or undesirable.