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“If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers we call him crazy. If a woman has a trailer house full of cats we call her nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of Fortune magazine and pretend that they are role models.”
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 Rants: Is This An Evil Dream or Is Everyone Else Sleeping?

OpinionSherlyn Meinz
AlienLove Staff Writer

While we are distracted by tragedy, I wanted to mention a few things not so well covered in the news. I am amazed daily as I peruse current events, sometimes feeling like I am walking in an evil dream, or perhaps that only a few people are really awake. Does the reporting of these things really get missed due to the constant government-issued terror threats, world tragedies, and the holidays? Are we just overwhelmed by the immensity of it, or is it inertia and apathy taking their toll?




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Yes, I know…it’s supposedly only ‘suspected terrorists’ whose rights are being infringed upon, but remember that ‘suspected’ can easily include anyone. It only takes one person to make an accusation, kind of like the witch burnings of the Middle Ages, when almost the entire populations of some towns disappeared as one person accused another and a madness of fear ensued. Since when does America imprison people without charges or trial? How many of the detainees were unlucky enough to have the wrong name, or have been in the wrong place at the wrong time or just have a neighbor that didn’t like them? We’ll never know! How dare the Bush Administration claim that we are bringing justice and democracy to other countries, when the war is used as an excuse to throw out everything this country stands for in the process? What happened to equality and justice for all?

The Bush administration is making plans for keeping suspected terrorists imprisoned indefinitely, as they do not want to set them free or turn them over to U.S. or other courts - because there is not enough evidence to bring charges or go to trial! The government admits that the detainees in question are unlikely to have additional intelligence to share. One proposal is to build a $25 million prison to house them. According to an article in the Washington Post, “The CIA has been scurrying since Sept. 11, 2001, to find secure locations abroad where it could detain and interrogate captives without risk of discovery, and without having to give them access to legal proceedings.” The prisoners held by the military at least get access to the Red Cross, and due to a Supreme Court ruling, now have the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court. However, the Congress has held no public hearings on the detainees which the CIA holds. One method of keeping the captives without any public proceedings, has been to transfer them to other countries willing to hold them indefinitely and allow CIA interrogation. This practice, called ‘renditions’ began in the 1990’s as a way to detain criminals abroad, such as drug lords, and then delivering them to the appropriate country for trial. Since the developments of 9/11, however, the practice has been used to make sure detainees never see the outside world again. A lawyer for Guantanomo Bay ‘detainee’ Mr. Habib, has asked the Federal District Court to block the Bush administration from sending him to Egypt, where he was tortured for six months before being transferred to the Cuban holding center. Filing of the motion was made in November, and just declassified and released on Jan 5th, 2005.
Transferring the ‘detainee’ could violate international law, if the US transfers prisoners to another government knowing that the prisoners might be tortured. Mr. Habib asserts that he was subjected to regular beatings, electric shock and dog attacks while imprisoned in Egypt in 2001, and tortured into confessions which were then used by the American military to deem him an enemy combatant. In the Middle Ages, people were tortured into confessions that were used to put them death as well, have we really reverted so far? Life imprisonment is certainly a death of all hope and future. Meanwhile, the Republican party had to reverse the changes they made in November in the House ethics rules. These changes were made so that House Majority Leader, Tom De Lay, and members of congress would be protected from having to step down when facing indictments. One of the specifics of this was to remove the rule that lawmakers not engage in conduct that brings discredit on the House. Even some Republicans opposed this change. According to an article by Carl Hulse for the New York times, “In the past year, he (Tom De Lay) has been admonished by the ethics panel three times: for his tactics in trying to persuade a colleague to support the Medicare drug bill, for appearing to link political donations to support for legislation and for involving a federal agency in a political matter in Texas.”

Then we had the news that the U.S. is now fingerprinting visitors at the 50 busiest land and border crossings in ten states, using the government’s new biometric screening system and planning to expand, according to the Homeland Security Department. US-VISIT is a system that scans visitor’s index fingers and photos into a computer matched with federal databases. Seventeen million have already been enrolled since last year, and despite arrests and admission denials, Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson admits that no known terrorists have been detected. Tracking visitors leaving the U.S. is in the testing stage.

And did you happen to check the fine print in the “No Child Left Behind Act?” Parents of teenagers are realizing that the government is now inundating students across the U.S. with uninvited recruitment phone calls and on-campus pitches, including video war games. A portion of this act forces schools to provide names, phone numbers, and both home and campus addresses of students, or risk losing their federal aid. Parents must demand in writing that the school deny this information to the military, in order to prevent the government’s in-home recruitment blitzes. PBS recently filmed a sergeant telling a campus group, “I mean, where else can you get paid to jump out of airplanes, shoot cool guns, blow stuff up and travel, seeing all kinds of different countries?”

Some message to our adolescents, killing and blowing up others is ‘cool.’ And they say television promotes violence! Of course as always, the recruiters most promising market are those in lower-middle class schools. Creating an Act that is supposed to be about children, that is a sales promotion for war, somehow strikes the wrong chord in me.

And one last item of interest, those lovely intersection video cameras in use in a number of cities to catch people running stop lights are apparently causing at least as many accidents as they prevent. While side-impact crashes are down, rear-end collisions are way up.



References:

“Long-Term Plan Sought For Terror Suspects,” by Dana Priest, Washington Post, January 2, 2005, Pg A01
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41475-2005Jan1.html

U.S. Now Fingerprinting at 50 Crossings, by Leslie Miller, AP
http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/article.adp?id=20050103190109990006&_mpc=news%2e10%2e1&cid=505

House G.O.P. Voids Rule It Adopted Shielding Leader, By Carl Hulse, January 4, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/04/politics/04cong.html?oref=login&th

Leave No Sales Pitch Behind, editorial, January 4, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/04/opinion/04tue3.html?th

Detainee Seeking to Bar His Transfer, By Neil A. Lewis, January 6, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/06/politics/06gitmo.html?oref=login&th

With Cameras on the Corner, Your Ticket Is in the Mail, by Jonathan Miller, January 6, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/06/technology/circuits/06came.html?th



Note: Illustration by Dennis Cox



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