Torture For Thee, But Not For Me

Glenn Greenwald was on NPR yesterday to talk about their policy of refusing to call torture by its proper name, and while he was waiting to go on he listened to NPR's ombudsman explaining their policy:

She also said — when the host asked about the recent example I cited of NPR's calling what was done to a reporter in Gambia "torture" (at the 20:20 mark) — that NPR will use the word "torture" to describe what other governments do because they do it merely to sadistically inflict pain on people while the U.S. did it for a noble reason:  to obtain information about Terrorist attacks.  That's really what she said:  that when the U.S. did it (as opposed to Evil countries), it was for a good reason.

Jeez, that Glenn.  Always exaggerating.  For the record, here's what she actually said about NPR's piece on Gambia:

In that case, these were strictly tactics to torture him, to punish him, versus in the United States, and the way that it's used, these are tactics used to get information.  The Gambian journalist was in jail for his beliefs.

Wow.  She really did say that, didn't she?  When other people do it for other reasons, it's torture.  When we do it for our reasons, it's not.

You don't usually find people willing to say this quite so baldly.  Congratulations, Alicia Shepard.

Staff Sgt. Ronal Cantarero (right), from Belton, Texas, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Snyder, from Pontiac, Mich., sit down and watch their children's high school graduation live in Belton, Texas, through a video teleconference from Camp Taji, Iraq. (Photo courtesy army.mil.)

No Agreement on Climate

Apparently the G8 meeting in Italy won't produce any agreement on climate change:

As President Obama arrived for three days of meetings with other international leaders, negotiators dropped a proposal that would have committed the world to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by midcentury and industrialized countries to slashing their emissions by 80 percent.

.... The breakdown on climate change underscored the difficulty in bridging divisions between the most developed countries like the United States and developing nations like China and India. In the end, people close to the talks said, the emerging powers refused to agree to the limits because they wanted industrial countries to commit to midterm goals in 2020 and to follow through on promises of financial and technological help in reducing emissions.

“They’re saying, ‘We just don’t trust you guys,’ ” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group based in the United States. “It’s the same gridlock we had last year when Bush was president.”

The basic problem isn't the 80% reduction by 2050, which is supported by both Obama and congressional Democrats.  The problem is the 2020 goal.  Right now, the Waxman-Markey climate bill requires a 17% cut by 2020, but that's from a baseline of 2005.  Depending on how you crunch the numbers, that works out to a cut of only 0-4% from 1990 levels.

The Europeans, conversely, want to see a 20% cut from 1990 levels by 2020.  Obama, presumably, sees no chance at all of getting Congress to agree to that, and the Europeans aren't willing to compromise their more stringent goals.  So for now, no agreement.  And Copenhagen is only five months away.

Solar Blimp to Debut on English Channel

Here's another bright, green idea to save the world.

Within the next few weeks, a solar powered blimp sponsored by the French Projet Sol'r will fly across the English Channel. The timing is a clear homage to Louis Bleriot, the first person to fly across the channel in an airplane on July 25, 1909. When Bleriot embarked on his flight in his rinky dinky airplane, few could have imagined the advances in flight technology that would soon take us to the moon, or send hundreds of civilians across the world within hours.

This month's blimp flight, a century later, will mark an exciting era of exploration into the practical uses of alternative energy. For now, the significance of this project is mostly symbolic. But with transportation companies looking for new ways to cut costs, and the government threatening to crack down on emissions, the flight could indicate whether cutting out traditional fuel and deflating carbon emissions will become part of the equation.

Healthcare in Extremis

Megan McArdle argues that if healthcare reform includes a public plan, it might mean a reduction in service for a lot of people with severe problems:

Surely the point of worry is that many millions of people will be forced into the public system, because its existence will encourage their employers to dump their health care plans.  Since private systems have so far found it virtually impossible to deny many treatments for long, this will mean that millions of budget constrained people will find themselves with less available treatment than before.

....This is not a crazy worry.  What America is best at is delivering a lot of complicated care in extremis, and "quality of life" treatments.  What European countries are best at is delivering a lot of ordinary care for the sorts of things that afflict people from 0-50, which is why most of the Europhile journalists writing about Europe genuinely have very good experiences to report.  I'd rather be here to have a hip replacement, but I might rather be in the Netherlands to have a baby.  Doing something moderately ordinary here is a hassle.  Doing something extraordinary there is often not possible for the overwhelming majority of citizens, though that depends on what, and in what system.

Boy, I'd sure like to see some backup for that.  If by "extraordinary" Megan means the most extreme 0.001% of procedures, then maybe she's right.  Maybe.  But nothing I've read about Western European healthcare systems makes me believe that there's any substantial difference between the way they treat severe illnesses and the way we do it.  And no systematic difference in success rates for such treatment either.  Nor should this come as a surprise, since most extreme medicine is practiced on older patients, who are covered by a public plan both here and in Europe.

No system is better at everything than any other system.  There are always tradeoffs.  But the overall evidence is crystal clear: European state healthcare systems, taken as a whole, provide better care than America's hodgepodege system at about half the price.  If we adopted their approach and combined it with American funding levels, we'd have a system better than either.  And rich people who wanted to pay for massive amounts of special care not covered by the state would still be free to do so.

Anyway, speaking of healthcare, the 24-hour bug I thought I had yesterday seems to be more like a 72-hour bug.  Blah.  Blogging will probably be a little light today again.

Dodd: Biting the Hands That Fund Him?

When Chris Dodd's first quarter campaign disclosures were released this spring, revealing that just five of the hundreds of donors to the veteran senator's reelection bid were residents of his homestate of Connecticut, the political attack ads basically made themselves. One, released by one his Republican challengers, features a map showing the home states of his out-of-town contributors and the amounts derived from each locale: $90,000 from Massachusetts, $100,000 from Maryland and New York, $81,000 from Texas. And then, as game show style music plays, the zinger: just $4,250 from residents of the Nutmeg State.

Here at Mother Jones, Jonathan Stein and I focused on another aspect of Dodd's first quarter disclosures: the fact that, with his political future in jeopardy, the five-term senator and chair of the powerful Senate banking committee appeared to be receiving a personal bailout from his friends in the finance industry.

Despite his waning appeal in Connecticut, Dodd's fundraising effort picked up steam in the first three months of 2009. He raised just more than $1 million during the quarter, according to federal campaign disclosure records. Almost a third of that money—at least $299,000—came from banking and investment executives, financial industry trade groups, and finance-oriented political action committees (PACs). An additional $68,000 came from lobbyists, many with clients on Wall Street. And that doesn't count the formidable financial support Dodd has received from insurance and health care interests.

Gonzo Finally Gets A Job

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has been the butt of many jokes over the past year thanks to media reports suggesting that he was unable to secure gainful employment after his disasterous tenure in the Bush administration. Sadly, it looks like those jokes will have to stop, as the Harvard Law grad has landed a teaching gig for the fall at a prestigious institution of higher learning: Texas Tech, in Lubbock, Texas. The guy once predicted to be the first Latino Supreme Court justice won't be teaching law or anything like that. Instead, he'll headline a poli-sci course on contemporary issues in the executive branch, based, apparently, on what little he can remember of it.

Eco-News Roundup: Wednesday July 8

Here are stories from our other blogs you might have missed yesterday on healthcare, energy, and the environment. And don't forget to check out our new drug package! Lots of good tidbits in there, including my own painstaking map.

Feeling Bullish: Obama may go a little Raging Bull on oil speculators.

Changing the Guard: Mexico elections show people may think Calderon's drug war is failing.

Photo of the Day: Pretty topography as a soldier surveys Afghanistan.

 

 

 

When the Clock Strikes 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9

This happens but once a century (twice if you count after midnight and after noon). Take note, celebrate the moment:

12:34:56 7/8/9

Love numbers.

After joking on Twitter that I was scheduled to appear on Hardball to discuss Michael Jackson's impact on politics--after having been booked to review the latest on embattled Governor Mark Sanford and new Senator Al Franken--I then went on Hardball and actually had to talk about Michael Jackson. That's because both President Barack Obama and ex-President Bill Clinton made statements about MJ today. So we shifted subjects. Jackson, in. Sanford, out. Franken, still in. (Sanford, who was censured by the South Carolina GOP on Monday night, has lucked out. His love life just can't compete with Sarah Palin's wackiness or Michael Jackson's demise.) Here's how it went: