Wednesday, April 29, 2009



Does what applies to “US”
apply to “THEM”?

(April 29, New York, NY) Daily the debate regarding whether or not the Bush Administration employed torture techniques while interrogating "enemy combatants” captured after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 becomes more of a knotted mass of conflicting opinions. Threats and recriminations abound as more and more previously classified documents from the Bush Administration’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)are made public. The debate landscape is overpopulated by loudmouthed, ill-informed blowhards on both sides of the issue whose narrow minded partisanship has allowed a much needed examination of the facts to become a pundit punted political football.

We have seen in the past other extremely serious issues of national security, policy and civil rights become secondary to the crass political interests of those on either side of the divide. It appears our federal government is incapable of dealing objectively, rationally and reasonably with any issue at all no matter its significance and importance.

Generally speaking, Republicans remain steadfast in their defense of the Bush Administration and all measures they took in the aftermath of 9 11 01 under the auspices of “The War on Terror.” Likewise, Democrats are determined to exploit the issue while exposing every questionable decision and arguable rationale presented by the Bush team. Somewhere between these entrenched positions exists the truth, truth will only be ascertained as more and more information is declassified and studied.

There are some that argue that the entire matter is now a moot point. President Obama has signed Executive Orders calling for the ban of all "enhanced interrogation" techniques, he has begun the process to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) Cuba where up to as many as 500 “enemy combatants” and “detainees” have been physically incarcerated and held in a virtual legal limbo. The detention system at GITMO was specifically chosen to keep the prisoners off United States soil and thereby deprive them of all the rights associated with our criminal justice system. Several Superior and Supreme Court rulings have deemed this practice “inappropriate and illegal” under our laws.

Such rulings bring the debate back full circle to the origin as to what we can and cannot do with “enemy combatants"; persons captured on the battlefield, un-allied with any nation state. Terrorists, by definition, are in a legal category of their own but are the terms and specifics of their incarceration and treatment governed by the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Conventions Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment? These conventions have been ratified by almost every country on the planet and have largely been respected.

The Geneva Conventions are composed of four individual treaties which define the standards for international law and humanitarian concerns with specific, well defined articles addressing treatment of the wounded, civilians, shipwrecked and prisoners of war. Important revisions were adopted in 1949 in the wake of the atrocities committed by the Axis during World War II.

A key component that appears to be absent from the current debate in Washington is that these conventions and treaties apply not only to the United States but to all countries that are signatories to them. This supposedly assures that American POW’s will be treated accordingly. This fact alone stands as a strong argument against the use of enhanced interrogation and torture tactics by the United States government no matter what the justification. If the United States remains in the eyes of the world on shaky, hypocritical, moral ground, any future American POW’s may find themselves treated without the protections of the relevant conventions and treaties.

Besides the well established and thoroughly documented fact that torture simply does not work; it does not result in obtaining actionable, accurate intelligence - stands a host of hypothetical questions that opponents and proponents alike employ in lame attempts to support their arguments.

Some of the most brain dead of the cable network blabbermouths pose the hypothetical that “if an attack were imminent and a terrorist was in custody, would it be justifiable to use torture to help prevent the attack?” This is so far fetched a scenario that even as a rhetorical, hypothetical inquiry it is useless. However, if we are to remain true to our laws, ethics and customs as well as the international conventions and treaties we have ratified, the answer can be nothing other than a simple “No.” The United States of America does not torture under any conditions, period.

What makes this hypothetical scenario remotely intriguing is the one in a billion possibility that such a circumstance could arise. The odds that our current or a future President would ever be in such a situation are astronomical but they do raise an almost visceral reaction from everyone no matter which side of the debate they represent. Anyone who was in New York City on 9 11 01 or witnessed the events on TV recalls the horror and outrage those circumstances and images engendered. A reasonable person could ask that if indeed we held in custody a terrorist suspected of possessing vital information regarding an impending attack, why would it NOT be acceptable to torture him?

These hypotheticals have actually been answered conclusively in reality over years of military and academic study. The highly sophisticated interrogation techniques developed and refined by the US Military, the CIA and FBI over many decades would be infinitely more effective in eliciting truthful, useful information from the terrorist. It is difficult for this point to be made to many simply because of the emotional response from the hypothetical .

Within six weeks of the terrorists attacks on New York City and The Pentagon, a small team of paramilitary CIA operatives were clandestinely inserted into Afghanistan to link up with the Northern Alliance, a rag tag assemblage of tribes and militias who had been battling with the Taliban and Al Qeada for years. If one of those operatives had been captured by the Taliban or Al Qeada, how would we, the US, want them to be treated? Of course, one could argue that if an operative were captured by a non-state entity such as Al Qeada that all bets would be off: terrorists have not signed on to any conventions or treaties. That is so. However, we could expect the government of Afghanistan or some neutral country to intervene and help assure that our captured were treated humanely. This may seem to be an unreasonable assumption to many.

It is less unreasonable if we have the moral footing, the strength, that comes from the world recognizing that we do not mistreat POW’s, enemy combatants, detainees of any kind or civilians rounded up in the fog of war. Perspectives such as those presented here must become incorporated into the real debate, the debate our government should be conducting about torture.

Who knows, who can predict what the immediate future in this debate will yield. There may or may not be prosecutions, inquests, international criminal court proceedings, Congressional investigations, Special Prosecutors or Blue Ribbon Commissions empowered to untie this tight, intricate knot. Full disclosure of all the documentation from the Bush OLC and his Administration may become public information that causes a public outcry for some punitive or prosecutorial measures. Again, we could hyperbolically speculate here just as the assholes on the cable networks do ad nausum but, to what avail.

The present and future safety of all those we put at risk who serve our country in and out of uniform should be the guiding principle as the debate unfolds as it most certainly will. Someday it may emerge from the foul, fetid waters of partisan politics and idiotic pundits, and find its way to our highest courts. Until that day comes, we should do our best to be ever mindful of our founding principles and our 235 year history of jurisprudence and conduct during times of war; our long and rich tradition which has its origins in the Magna Carta.

We are a nation of laws and basic decency. We will find ourselves in a variety of disparate conflicts in the future. What transpires now pertaining to all these issues will set the stage for that future.


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Tuesday, April 28, 2009



Devoid of any core or morals
Arlen Specter jumps GOP ship.

(April 28, Harrisburg, PA) After being elected to the Senate for five terms by the good people of Pennsylvania, Republican, Arlen Specter, suddenly realized, sometime last night, that he no longer believes in electoral politics.

In a news conference he conducted in the Washington, DC at the Capitol earlier today to announce his change of Party allegiance from the GOP to the Democratic Party. The pathetically addled, arrogant, self serving imbecile admitted that his change of Party was one primarily of political expediency. “I do not want to leave my 29 year Senate career in the hands of Republican primary voters”, said Specter. Obviously his move reflects the harsh reality that he is currently polling 30 points behind his primary opponent who he narrowly defeated in 2004.

The crassness of his move is almost without parallel. Perhaps the closest such selfishly, brazen maneuver was when Joe “ The Senate Jew” Lieberman switched from the Democratic Party to register as an Independent after he lost his primary battle against Ned Lamont. Arlen now joins his buddy and fellow spineless scum bag as another traitor of epic proportions. Each of these men were elected by a certain constituency and, once they perceived electoral threats, they abandoned their Party and those who sent them to the Senate.

While all politicians by nature are deceitful, arrogant, power hungry, corrupted , scum bags, Specter’s blatantly obvious change today indicates a profound lack of anything resembling conscience, morals, ethics, character, loyalty or honor. Actually Arlen clearly demonstrated exactly who and what he is and his true colors. How can any Pennsylvanian ever believe another word from this ass wipe?

Of course he also spouted out the tired rhetoric that as his Party has moved so far “to the right”, he found himself philosophically more in line “with the Democratic Party.” he also cited his so called “independent streak” as well as several recent instances when he broke from his party line and voted for parts of the Democratic agenda. he tries to dress up his cowardice and spinelessness in noble terms. His statements fall so flat that they truly defy logic.

Now that the Democrat’s are close to having a 60 seat “super majority” in the Senate, that does not necessarily mean they will actually be able to count on 60 votes for each piece of legislation. Having the seats is one thing, having a unified party vote is quite another. The Democrats should be as wary as wives who have been cheated on; once a wanderer always a wanderer. With Specter it is once a lying traitor, always a lying traitor. He may caucus with the Democrats but how will such a man vote? With whom, other than himself, does he have any allegiance? What principal other than political self preservation does he possess?

The voters of Pennsylvania will hopefully see through this craven act and bounce him resoundingly out of office and into retirement which is where a Senatorial fossil like him belongs anyway.

Arlen did not want to risk his political future by leaving it up to the voters? Well, you tired, old traitorous fool, that is precisely in whose hands your political future rests whether they be Republicans, Democrats or Independents. No one should vote for such a decidedly unprincipled man. No one likes a lying rat. Maybe, Arlen, your little dance across the aisle will in fact seal your fate.


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Monday, April 27, 2009


An emergent system: computer model of viral spread.
Complexity at work.

(April 27, Atlanta, GA) Literally overnight all the day to day conflicts, concerns, arguments and routine matters are cast in stark relief by a submicroscopic pathogen. Raging wars, international conflicts, economic crisis and the more mundane occupants of our time and minds cause pause as a new perspective dramatically alters the present. The scale and scope of what this viral entity may reek is unknowable at this time however its potential is potent.

Neither technically alive or dead, viruses, small clusters of proteins and genetic material become active and infectious once inside a host organism. Once in a human, they replicate. Some are relatively benign, others easily recognizable and manageable by our immune systems. A smaller number, particularly those that have shared some of their composite material with other viruses or otherwise have mutated, present serious challenges. What has emerged from Mexico City is a virus known as H1N1, a “swine flu” named such due to its host of origin.

“Patient Zero”, the case that arguably all subsequent cases can be traced back to, is a five year old boy who contracted the virus back in March and has since fully recovered. Why others have died and will die, remains unknown and incalculable for a variety of reasons.

Unlike most similar flu viruses that strike particularly hard in the very young and older members of the population, this current variant has its highest mortality rate predominately in young adults; folks whose immune systems should be able to resist this type of infection to some degree or, at least long enough for the two antivirals indicated for it can be employed. This is just one of the mysteries surrounding this outbreak.

When we read and hear the words ‘epidemic’ and ‘pandemic’ used in discussion of the current outbreak and see images of global travelers wearing face masks obviously concern is our normal reaction. Additionally, we hear the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) speak about the variables, issue statements about the potential for widespread infection, elevate the “level” of the spread, and increasing infection and death, fear can quickly replace concern and, if left unchecked, cloud judgment and incite further fear.

We live in a world today virtually without boundaries and obviously, pathogens know no borders or boundaries; they cannot differentiate between ethnicity, race, nationality, age, gender or any other of our terms of self description. These are among the oldest of humankind's adversaries and have evolved since the dawn of man. They can be rapacious, insidious and , certainly, lethal. Viruses can spread widely before they are even detected by public health organizations; often way after the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. Fortunately the global response to this outbreak has been rapid and robust. Still, despite the measures nations implement, no matter the degree of effort the medical and public health community exerts, the virus is calling the shots - it sets the terms of battle.

And a battle it may be. Our interconnectedness, our global network of air travel allows pathogens to hitch rides and introduce themselves into unfamiliar populations, populations who have no immunity to these new germs. This phenomenon was coined as the phrase “Jet Set Germs” late in the 1980’s. Epidemiologists use sophisticated computer models based on chaos and complexity theory and algorithms to predict the possible extent of the viral spread. These models have little real time utility due to the nature of the adversary, its ability to mutate and stay one step ahead of the available medical arsenal.

A truly virulent virus with a highly developed capability to evolve could cause a pandemic such as that seen in 1918. It could also “burn itself out’ naturally for reasons not entirely understood. There are several possibilities relevant to this swine flu now traveling the world that range from the best case scenario, a rapid conquest on our part to the worst case scenario which would place the virus in the position as the conquerer.

A global pandemic or even a national epidemic could cause more havoc than a war, a terrorist attack or natural disaster. That is why this is not solely a matter of public health but also of national security. Widespread infection in America could cripple an already ailing economy as well as cause profoundly challenging social ramifications that may have only been poorly thought through if anticipated at all. Who can image the full extent of potential issues pitting personal liberties and rights against mandated quarantine or vaccination?

For now we should all remain calm, the virus thus far has not exhibited particularly aggressive properties although it is difficult to determine with any accuracy what phase of the outbreak we are presently facing.

If nothing else the events of these past few days have helped put other matters into a more proper perspective. Perhaps on occasion we need something out of the ordinary, something foreign, unpredicted and sudden to jar us out of the ruts our mundane lives, despite are many difficulties, to appreciate such a change of perspective.

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