Thursday, May 21, 2009

Closing Gitmo and coward politicians

The Senate on Wednesday resoundingly rejected an effort to spend $80 million to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and relocate the terrorism suspects, possibly to U.S. prisons:

This is utterly ridiculous. What a bunch of paranoid cowards we have in Congress. There is not ONE logical argument for not housing these guys in the US. All opposition is based on emotion and unjustified fear. What's the big deal? Some alarmists argue that:

They will escape. They will attract like-minded people to that location. They are security risk to communities. Every one of these arguments fails the smell test. These facilities are made specifically to house these kinds of criminals. There are no escapes. Radical people do not flock to these locations (First of all, most of them can’t even get into America in the first place. Second of all, wouldn’t it be stupid for terrorists to congregate? Isn’t their best defense to hide?) These arguments are made out of blind fear and no rational thought.

Our Congressionals need to get some guts and tell their paranoid constituents they're being irrational. Where was all the crazed hysteria when Timothy McVey was brought to Supermax, the high-security prison in Florence, Colorado? What’s the matter, are white terrorists not as dangerous as these brown terrorists? Let’s see, wouldn’t there be even more of chance that an indigenous terrorist would attract like-mined right wing radicals into Florence than Islamic extremists would? Didn't happen.

Supermax already holds some of the most notorious international and domestic terrorists, including would-be airline shoe-bomber Richard Reid, World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. Again, where was the squawking when this happened? Could it be that maybe Obama didn’t put these guys there, so the right had no issue with it? But even the Dems are whining now, so what gives?

Communities in Montana as well as Colorado are asking for the detainees. The residents of Florence, Colorado also say bring it on. They know much more about this issue than politicians and people from other communities. Let’s listen to them instead of coward politicians and unaffected interests.

Obama is proposing some changes to the Bush detention policy. Not enough change in my book, but changes nonetheless. Some changes include restrictions on hearsay evidence that can be used in court against the detainees, a ban on all evidence obtained through cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, giving detainees greater leeway in choosing their own military counsel and protecting detainees who refuse to testify from legal sanctions or other court prejudices. Closing Gitmo and moving these guys is part of that change in direction. It puts the old strategy behind us. It turns a page. It takes away an important symbol of dangerous Bush policy and moves more towards working within existing legal structures.

See, here’s another problem Obama and I have with holding these guys in a foreign country. If people support the Bush strategy of detention, then put your money where your mouth is. You want all the “benefits,” but none of the costs. If you support the Bush detention policies, then you should be willing to take on its consequences. People want to put these guys out of sight-out of mind; wash their hands clean and bear none of the responsibility. Maybe that makes them forget the injustice or deal with their guilt easier. I don’t know, but I do feel that we as a country should bear the effects of our decisions.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bashing Friedman

It seems environmentalists bashing Thomas Friedman is the new fad. If you don’t know Tom, he won Pulitzer Prizes for reporting he did in the Middle East in the 1980s. He now write for the New York Times and is most recently known for his book about globalization, The World is Flat, and his latest book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—And How It Can Renew America. I’ve read the later two and catch most his NYT’s op-eds.

I’m frankly a little amazed at how chic it has become for “progressives” to attack Friedman about his environmental writing. It’s no surprise that Tom would come under fire from the left in general, though. He’s not far left on most issues by any stretch of the imagination. He’s adamantly free trade and initially supported the Iraq war. In Hot, Flat, and Crowded, however, he advocates some policy measures that many moderates would view as radical. He calls for market signals, such as a carbon tax, gas tax, and commitments to have renewables make up a certain proportion of the US’ energy. This little op-ed sums up his main points pretty well: Mother Nature’s Dow.

So, let’s take a look at these criticisms of Friedman, shall we? Here’s the first one I saw:

Someone Take Away Thomas Friedman's Computer Before He Types Another Sentence. First of all, I have to concede this is well written and hilarious. Especially witty is his discussion of how Friedman draws a connection between the price of oil and the amount of freedom in oil-producing counties by plotting a couple points. The writer rightly pokes fun at his methods but doesn’t bother disputing the fact that Friedman is right. He starts his rant by complaining about how big Friedman’s house is and how rich his wife is. This argument smacks of idiot right wingers discounting what Al Gore has to say about climate change just because he owns a mansion.

Then there’s this piece by Brian Keane where he bashes Friedman for saying "My motto is change your leaders, not your light bulbs." Friedman is not advocating that people shouldn’t do some simple things to increase energy efficiency; he’s saying that’s not enough. A “revolution” is needed, he states, which entails hard work and pain. I thought environmentalists would agree, but instead they mock him.

Here’s a piece this week that attacks Friedman for originally accepting (then returning) a $75,000 speaker fee. Sure, Friedman didn’t need to take that fee even if wasn’t from a public agency. But then of course we get the commentors who pile on and contend he’s “a fraud” and “no expert on environmental matters.” Of course, when pressed for answers about which assertions in Hot, Flat and Crowded they disagree with, they can’t come up with anything.

Listen, I know Friedman isn’t a revolutionary or anything. He didn’t come up with all these grandiose ideas himself. And yes, he and his family could do a little better themselves as far as limiting environmental impacts go. I have no problem with calling out Friedman, but let’s discuss how his arguments fail, not about this writing style or house. I have no problem with leveling legitimate concerns about Friedman’s positions on other issues. But all that doesn’t invalidate the points he makes in Hot, Flat and Crowded.

Friedman has a large and diverse readership, folks which otherwise might not hear the message. It even helps that he’s not a traditional greenie. Right wing dolts can call Al Gore a "liberal socialist environmentalist," as if that discounts the truth of his message. Those labels just don’t stick to Friedman, which is why he’s a positive addition to our effort.

Time to spend more energy attacking the real problems/perpetrators and leave Friedman alone to spread an important message. It’s hard to argue Friedman isn’t a net benefit to the environmental movement.