“Iran, the second-biggest producer of crude oil in the Middle East, has ‘completely halted‘ all oil transactions in dollars, the state-run ISNA news agency said.” Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said, “The dollar is an unreliable currency, considering its devaluation and the oil exporters’ losses.”
Kevin Drum on what the destroyed evidence would show us:
So here’s what the tapes would have shown: not just that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative, but that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative who was (a) unimportant and low-ranking, (b) mentally unstable, (c) had no useful information, and (d) eventually spewed out an endless series of worthless, fantastical “confessions” under duress. This was all prompted by the president of the United States, implemented by the director of the CIA, and the end result was thousands of wasted man hours by intelligence and and law enforcement personnel.
I was thinking of this the other day when once again pondering the “does torture work” question. It’s a reminder that the right issue isn’t “could there be times when torture produces useful information?” it’s “is torture as a policy a good way of obtaining useful information?” In other words: Does the time wasted on obtaining bad information, or — worse — acting on it, outweigh the good it is. From what we’ve been able to see peeking out of the shadows of the Bush torture regime, the answer looks like a very resounding “no.” In addition to the time wasted and the innocent people killed, the administration was able to confirm a lot of its wrong preconceptions about Iraq, and in the battlefield scenarios at Bagram and Abu Ghraib set the stabilization missions backwards by turning our forces into hated occupiers. Even if some operationally useful intel has come out of this (and with so much garbage sloshing around, how could you even tell?) the systemic impact has been to flood the system with nonsense and brutality.
On the presidential campaign trail, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has promised to aggressively fight HIV/AIDS, which he termed a “national and international tragedy.” In a statement put out on Nov. 19, Huckabee voiced support for “President Bush’s proposal to double our initial commitment from $15 billion to $30 billion over the next five years for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),” and promised to go even further:
While we must continue our global leadership on HIV/AIDS, we must also take care of our own. My administration will be the first to have an overarching strategy for dealing with HIV and AIDS here in the United States, with a partnership between the public and private sectors that will provide necessary financing and a realistic path toward our goals. We must prevent new infections and provide more accessible care. We must transform the promise of a vaccine and a cure into reality.
This rhetoric is a dramatic departure from Huckabee’s statements in 1992, when he was running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. At that time, Huckabee proposed a quarantine for all AIDS patients and a moratorium on all federal funding. AP reports:
“If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague,” Huckabee wrote.
“It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population.”
Huckabee added that “additional federal spending” can’t be “justified” to fight AIDS, proposing instead that “multimillionaire celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor [and] Madonna” be “encouraged to give out of their own personal treasuries.”
In late 1991, there were almost 200,000 AIDS patients in the United States, and 126,159 people had died from the syndrome. It was also “common knowledge that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact.” Also in 1991, LA Lakers star Magic Johnson had brought public awareness to the disease by announcing that he had AIDS.
UPDATE: Huckabee has introduced a quarantine-like plan for undocumented immigrants. NDN’s Simon Rosenberg writes, “In a major reversal, Mike Huckabee announced a new immigration plan that calls for the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to leave the country in 120 days.”
Tomorrow, Univision will be hosting a GOP presidential debate at 7 PM EST. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) is boycotting the event, and yesterday put out a statement criticizing the other candidates for attending:
“It is the law that to become a naturalized citizen of this country you must have knowledge and understanding of English, including a basic ability to read, write, and speak the language,” Tancredo said, in a press release e-mailed by his campaign to reporters. “So what may I ask are our presidential candidates doing participating in a Spanish speaking debate? Pandering comes to mind.”
“America has been a melting pot of people from all over the world but it can not survive as a nation if our immigrants do not assimilate. A common language is essential to that goal. Bilingualism is a great asset for any individual but it has perilous consequences for a nation. As such, a Spanish debate has no place in a presidential campaign.“
As Ross argues at this point it would clearly be impossible for any of the Republican contenders to win the nomination. And yet, someone has to win the nomination, right?
I’ve got an op-ed in today’s LA Times noting that though it’s certainly good news that Iran seems to not have a nuclear weapons program, I’d still like to know what our Democratic candidates would have done had things gone the other way. I’d like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in short, to follow Bush’s lead and repudiate unilateral preventive military action as a plank of nonproliferation policy.
It’s clear that, roughly speaking, when you move farther away from an urban core your housing costs go down but your transportation costs go up. But that still leaves the question as to whether or not it all balances out in the end. Well, via Ryan Avent it turns out that it more or less does:
That graph’s taken from this National Housing Center report arguing that we need to think of affordable housing issues as much more tightly linked with transport/congestion issues than has traditionally been the case.
IEEE Tech Talk’s John Voelker’s report is titled EVS-23: A Surge of Energy for Electric Cars. It is a first comment on the palpable difference being experienced at this year’s Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS23), the electric drive industry trade show.
An astounding 450 people attended Sunday’s plug-in hybrid workshop. A member of congress, for the first time, spoke from the floor about promoting electric vehicles through federal legislation. Five major automakers have expensive displays. Voelker writes:
A year ago, the Chevrolet Volt was unknown……The demand for plug-in hybrids has exploded…..grumbled the City of Vancouver’s Brian Beck, “I’m ready to change the building code to require electric plugs throughout parking garages, but automakers tell me I can’t get their plug-in prototypes…
Still no plug-in hybrids or electric cars in showrooms, but things are looking up.
– Marc G.
Jonathan Cohn has a very informative article on the Obama health care plan and the mandate debate. He sums up the case for mandates thusly:
Still, the most important rationale for a mandate may be a more practical one: It’s necessary to keep other reforms from unraveling. If you make insurers sell to everybody, even people with pre-existing conditions, but let people choose whether or not to buy it, people in good health will be more likely to wait until they’re sick before buying coverage, figuring there’s no point in forking over premiums while their chances of needing care are so low. This will cause a chain reaction. As healthy people opt out, insurance programs will be left dealing with a population of sicker and sicker people. Since insurance relies on contributions from healthy people to offset costs from sick, it will become more expensive–which will cause even more healthy people to opt out. The cycle will repeat over and over again, with the cost of insurance going up and enrollment going down. Wonks call this the “adverse selection death spiral.” And it’s hardly theoretical. By the late 20th Century, most of the nation’s Blue Cross plans had stopped offering insurance to all comers, regardless of pre-existing condition, because their competitors–who didn’t make the same generous offer–had stolen away all the healthy patients.
Now in my view promoting a death spiral among private sector insurance companies could be a good thing if the intention was to kill ‘em off and move people into an alternative public mechanism, but unfortunately I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Obama’s driving at. And there’s the rub. I like Obama and I don’t really like the mandate fad. And Obama doesn’t like it either. But all indications are that his team doesn’t come to this conclusion from the same direction I do, and his proposals are as bad as Clinton’s in terms of a misguided focus on taming private insurance firms rather than destroying them.
John Edwards, who’s publicly hinted around about his plan as designed to put us on a slippery slope to the bountiful world of socialized medicine, is a clear winner here in my view.