Political MoJo

Wilkerson Continues to Speak Out

Tue Apr. 25, 2006 4:59 PM EDT

Yesterday Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, wrote a blistering op-ed in the Baltimore Sun. Some excerpts:

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Fishermen protest to restore the Klamath River and the salmon season on the Pacific Coast.

| Mon Apr. 24, 2006 8:52 PM EDT

This morning in San Francisco, about 100 fishermen protested to restore the Klamath River and their salmon season on the Pacific Coast. They blame the current salmon shortage on the Bush administration's mismanagement of the Klamath, which runs through California and Oregon. They were joined at Pier 47 by representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), who will introduce a bill tomorrow to provide $81 million in disaster relief to fishing communities.

Fishermen have been up in arms since the federal government announced in February that it was considering shortening the salmon season because of dwindling numbers of Klamath River salmon.

Fishermen and scientists say the dams on the Klamath River hurt fish. "There's every good reason to take [dams] out," Glen Spain, president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), told the San Francisco Chronicle this month. "They heat the river to lethal levels, and they're breeding grounds for toxic algae and C. shasta, the parasite that kills the salmon." Those river conditions helped cause massive fish die-offs in 2002 and 2003.

Also, starting in 2001, the Bush administration began diverting increasingly large amounts of Klamath River water for agriculture, leaving less for salmon. The reduced water has helped magnify the problems caused by the Klamath dams.

(You can read more about the Klamath in Mother Jones' 2003 article "What's a River For?")

Below, you can listen to audio clips of key stakeholders in the debate. (Photos by Ed Homich)

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Donning a salmon headdress Jenny Stormy Statts of Orleans, Calif. attends the demonstration near Fisherman's Warf in San Francisco Monday.

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A fishing boat displays a plea to remove the dams on Northern California's Klamath River.

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Listen to clip Commercial fisherman George Boos says he came to the rally to represent fishermen who were being hurt by federal policies.

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Listen to clip Rally organizer and commercial fisherman Mike Hudson holds a bottle of what he says is deadly Klamath River water.

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Listen to clip Rep. Mike Thompson says Department of Interior officials refused to meet with him about salmon -- and then he showed up outside their office with 500 pounds of dead fish.

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Listen to clip Karuk tribal biologist and dipnet fisherman Ron Reed connects the plights of Native Americans and commercial fishermen: "What affects me and my people, affects you and your people."

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Listen to clip PCFFA vice president Dave Bitts says limiting
the salmon season will hurt him personally.

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Listen to eight-minute interview Zeke Grader, executive director of the PCFFA, says the Bush administration is mismanaging the Klamath River.

Women and girls missing in Iraq

| Mon Apr. 24, 2006 6:48 PM EDT

According to the current issue of Time magazine, more than 2,000 Iraqi women have gone missing since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein. This estimate comes from anecdotal evidence collected by the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, and is thought to be the result of the collapse of law and order in Iraq.

In addition to the existence of gangs of criminals, some aid workers say that various ministry bureaucrats have either frozen the assets of charities that might provide refuge, or have bound them with excessive red tape. According to the UK press, sex traffickers have been abducting women and girls and selling them into prostitution. Some, these sources say, are sold instead of being released after they have been kidnapped for ransom; others are taken at random. Kidnappings are often not reported because of the societal shame that surrounds them, and many families are reluctant to take back females who have been raped or forced into prostitution.

In July of 2003, Human Rights Watch published a report, "Climate of Fear: Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad," which concluded that the failure of Iraqi and U.S.-led occupation authorities to provide adequate security in Baghdad was at the root of women's fear of being raped and abducted. Now, almost three years later, the problem still exists. There is no way to tabulate how many women and girls have been taken out of Iraq to Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and other places as part of this contemporary slave trade, and there is no indication that a solution is at hand.

A Rwandan Speaks Out on Darfur

Mon Apr. 24, 2006 5:13 PM EDT

Paul Rusesabagina wants to make sure we pay attention to history so that we do not repeat our mistakes. The Rwandan hotel manager—whose actions during the 1994 genocide saved the lives of 1,268 refugees and inspired the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda—is using his book tour not only to promote his recently released autobiography An Ordinary Man but to also call attention to the devastating slaughter in Darfur, as well as to continuing human rights abuses in Rwanda.

This past Friday evening in San Francisco, Rusesabagina spoke about his ordeal, recounting intense moments of sadness, terror, and heartbreak. The 51-year-old who now lives in exile in Belgium expressed frustration with the ongoing political situation in his homeland, noting, "There are no free elections in Rwanda."

Rusesabagina also challenged his audience to confront the situation in Sudan, comparing the crisis there to Rwanda during the early 1990s. He said the United States needs to send a clear message to the Sudanese government that they are not "untouchable." His recommended action of choice? Begin by freezing the assets of those in power.

As he noted in a recent fundraising letter on behalf of the Save Darfur Coalition, "I see what is going on in Darfur right now and I wonder how the world can let it happen again. This is a shame to mankind."

Is Appeasement Moral?

| Mon Apr. 24, 2006 5:03 PM EDT

One other point on Iran. A lot of neoconservatives think it would be "immoral" for the United States to offer some sort of grand bargain to Iran—security guarantees, an agreement on our side not to attack, better economic and diplomatic relations—in exchange for nuclear disarmament. And yes, there would be something "icky" about appeasing the Iranian regime, which is hardly one of the world's most cuddly. But Ted Galen Carpenter and Justin Logan say just about all that needs to be said on this:

The Iranian regime is undoubtedly odious. But one of the requirements of an effective foreign policy is to engage with unpleasant regimes when America's national interest requires that step. This is one of those cases.

Moreover, do hawks genuinely believe that the alternative to a grand bargain -- preventive military strikes, perhaps involving up to 400 targets, some of them beneath densely populated urban centers -- is sensitive to the plight of Iranians?

Are we to believe that such a policy, which would involve thousands of civilian deaths, is the policy that best serves the interests of the Iranian people?The whole column is worth reading, but that part's well put.

Brzezinski on Iran

| Mon Apr. 24, 2006 4:48 PM EDT

Zbigniew Brzezinski's op-ed on why we shouldn't start bombing Iran is truly excellent, but it's worth re-emphasizing the best reasons not to go to war; namely, that it wouldn't actually solve anything. At best, it would only set back Iran's nuclear program a few years and make the mullahs even more determined to acquire the bomb in order to deter the United States (at the moment, they seem to be divided on the subject; Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has even issued a fatwa against actual nuclear weapons). It would also kill off the only long term hope of preventing a nuclear Iran, by making a real disarmament and non-proliferation agreement virtually impossible to put in place. And it would effectively prevent Iran from becoming a more liberal and democratic state anytime soon, which, as Shirin Ebadi pointed out, is the only other viable long-term "solution" here.

Plus bombing would kill lots of civilians, something that's worth repeating again and again. It would very likely escalate into a broader war. And all for something that's not even necessary—Iran is almost certainly still years away from making a nuclear bomb, and even if it were to acquire one, there's little reason to think they'd try to destroy Israel or whatever else we think they'd do (as Matt Yglesias pointed out, when Iran had a chance to help Hamas out earlier this month, it responded with a token aid offering; oddly stingy for a regime supposedly hell-bent on wiping out Israel). We shouldn't be going to war with Iran ever. And for the time being, there's every reason to at least try and negotiate with Tehran.

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Revisiting Prewar Intelligence

| Mon Apr. 24, 2006 1:59 PM EDT

In case anyone's missed it, this Josh Marshall post is worth reading. During the run-up everyone's favorite quagmire on the Tigris, apparently, an Iraqi foreign minister had defected and told the CIA that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs. But the White House took no interest in all of this; a non-existent weapons program doesn't exactly bolster the case for war, after all.

But the remarkable thing here is that none of the authoritative-sounding commissions that investigated whether the prewar intelligence was botched or mishandled or distorted looked into this incident. Or rather, they were told about it and ignored it entirely.

San Diego school prohibits student from wearing flag

| Fri Apr. 21, 2006 6:56 PM EDT

When Malia Fontana's friend was told that he could not wear an American flag headband at school, she protested by wearing an American flag in her back pocket. Malia was then told to remove her flag, and when she asked the security guard why she had to remove it, she was taken to the principal's office. Though not required to do detention, Malia had an incident report written that will remain in her records until six months after her graduation from Fallbrook Union High School in San Diego.

In 1969, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines School District, established the right of students to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam war. Justice Abe Fortas, writing for the majority, said:

In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school as well as out of school are "persons" under our Constitution. They are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect, just as they themselves must respect their obligations to the State.

The Tinker decision applies to the situation at Fallbrook Union, and the ACLU has sent a letter to the San Diego County school district comply with the law, apologize to Malia and her mother, and clear Malia's school record.

Taking Global Warming Seriously

| Fri Apr. 21, 2006 4:32 PM EDT

Over at TomPaine.com, Chris Mooney argues that the fallout from Hurricane Katrina might well act as the catalyst that gets everyone thinking seriously about how to prevent global warming. Here's hoping he's right. This bit was interesting, though:

Recently the attorneys general of several progressive-leaning states brought a lawsuit against a group of U.S. electric power companies, trying to hold them responsible for the current and future impacts of global warming on their respective states. The lawsuit has stalled, but it's just the opening salvo in what could be a flurry of global warming litigation. And as the impacts of climate change become more pronounced, plaintiffs should have an easier time gaining standing in court. "You can't be contributing to the destruction of the planet's climate with millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions and not be committing some kind of a tort," global warming litigator Matt Pawa told me last year. "It's just impossible."
That reminds me of the story of Tuvalu, a small island nation in the South Pacific that could literally get washed away and disappear completely if melting ice caps continue to raise the sea levels. Steven Milloy, a "CATO analyst," had a good chuckle over this bit of litigation in a Fox column last year. But who is Steven Milloy? Why, as Mooney himself reported for Mother Jones last year, he's a famous global warming "skeptic" who regularly receives money from Exxon for scoffing at the science behind climate change. So this post has come full circle—that's exciting.

What's So Great About STAR*D?

Fri Apr. 21, 2006 3:51 PM EDT

Treatment for depression costs the United States a staggering $83 billion each year. Part of this is due to the fact that the treatments themselves involve so much trial and error; there's very little reliable information out on the effectiveness of various drugs and forms of therapy.

So it's good news that today Slate is reporting on a new study called STAR*D, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, that compares and contrasts the twenty options for prescription antidepressants, their dosages, and even the effects of psychotherapy -- something no other study has ever done. For the 19 million Americans who suffer from depression, this is a major step forward. The pharmaceutical industry usually doesn't produce any comparative data on depression, a state of affairs that has previously left most patients and their doctors guessing which treatment will be the best fit.

Comparative, independent trials will also enable doctors to rely less on collected by the pharmaceutical industry. Mark Gibson, deputy director of the Center for Evidence-Based Policy at Oregon Health and Science University, adds that in regards to data provided by drug firms, "it's not unusual for less than 10 percent of studies to meet our standards of quality." And according to Jerry Avorn, professor of medicine at Harvard, comparative studies could motivate drug companies to develop more advanced versions of current drugs, improving on what we already have.