Number losing unemployment benefits



Paperblog

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gitmo cleaned up

I am impressed with Col Morris Davies' ability to make Gitmo seem like a model prison and the justice system in place as truly reflecting international standards (The Guantanamo I know, New York Times, June 26, 2007, A25).

Of course, he can only do this by providing a very ahistorical account.

First, the very fact that the US government lost the Hamdan case means that prior to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, detainees did not receive the protections of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention or Article 75 of the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions. It
seems to me that justice rendered only because a court insisted on it is a very poor sort of justice for which Colonel Davies and his military lawyer colleagues should be ashamed.

Second, Col Davies claims that "[the prisoner] is entitled to assistance to secure evidence on his behalf." This is patently untrue -- or was up to a year ago. In June of 2006, your sister newspaper, The Boston Globe, published a story pointing out that detainees were not given the help they needed (Detainees not given access to witnesses, Boston Globe, June 18, 2006, A1). This catalogued the failure of the United States' Authorities to find witnesses who might
have been able to exonerate some of the prisoners held at Guantanamo.

I cannot understand how those responsible did not try with every fibre of their being to find those witnesses. Instead they took a lackadaisical approach that seems typical of the Bush administration.

As with Katrina, it is hard to know whether the neglect of the duty owed to the prisoners was deliberate and malign or mere ineptitude.


The story of Gitmo is darker than that painted by Col. Davies. The time has come to close it.

Sent to New York Times

More on Inspection

I agree with nearly everything that David Leonhardt (A Lesson That Thomas Could Teach, New York Times, Business Day, June 20, 2007. C1, C8) says about the problems of outsourcing. The interface between the central firm and its suppliers does need to be managed and transaction costs do have to be incurred.

I disagree with his statement that "The government clearly needs to play a role here by inspecting more of the items coning into this country." No! The firms doing the importing should be responsible for inspecting the things that they bring into the country. If their inspections are non existent or failing then they should pay the penalty of being sued and be subject to penalties under consumer protection laws.

The executives of these companies RC2 and HIT should also be compelled to deal with my two-year old grandson who has just been deprived of his favorite Thomas Musical Caboose.

Sent to New York Times

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

Inspection

A second company has fallen foul of Chinese producers.

My question is didn't RC2 (sellers of Thomas the Tank engine) or the pet food maker, Menu Foods, do any inspection of the goods they imported. I thought it was standard operating procedure to carry out inspection of incoming products and semi-processed materials to make sure they met the specifications.

Apparently not!

Sent to New York Times
Why have we become a nation characterized by callous indifference? Over the last two years the United States has dealt with a number of foreign individuals with an incomprehensible disregard for their well-being.

Last Sunday, the Boston Globe reported on the fate of 5 Chinese Uighurs (Globe, June 10, 2007, page A7). This followed a similar story about a year ago (Globe, May 18th, page A8). These were people captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and interred at Guantanamo Bay for several years. They had all been cleared of terrorist connections by a military tribunal but were kept, as innocent people, at Guantanamo because they could not be returned to their native China which they were fleeing. Instead they were sent to Albania where they live in misery in a refugee camp.

Why could the United States not have generously have resettled these people here in the United States? Instead they kept them at Guantanamo until February 2006 when the courts were about to hear their appeal to be released; they were then shipped to Albania where they are living in a Refugee Center in that impoverished country. One would think that after disrupting their lives, the United States would be eager to make amends by resettling these people in safety in the United States.

But this is not the only case of irresponsible treatment by the United States. Consider the fate of Mr Kahled el-Masri who was the victim of a mistaken identity. He was seized by the CIA in Macedonia, held by the CIA for five months in a prison cell in Afghanistan to which he had been rendered, and when it was discovered that the CIA had the wrong man he was returned to Macedonia and dumped on the side of an abandoned road. Note that: dumped on the side of a road, not taken to a decent hotel, not fed and given clothes, and not given help in re-establishing his life. To add insult to injury, his lawsuit against the CIA was dismissed on national security grounds. Who decided on this treatment. Is it just some insensitive lower level bureaucrat or did the decision emanate from the highest levels of the CIA?

Then there is Mr. Maher Arar, a Canadian of Syrian descent. He too was unjustly arrested, when in transit between Tunis and Ottawa while returning via New York from a holiday with his wife and children. In his case, after interrogation at Kennedy airport, he was rendered to the Syrians were he was kept in appalling conditions for a year until it was decided that he had no links to al-Qaeda. He was then returned to Ottawa. Unlike the Canadian Government which held an inquiry as to the role Canadian Police and Consular officials may have played in his arrest, a United States court also dismissed his case against the United States Government on National Security grounds.

All these people deserve better. The Uighurs should be brought from Albania and settled in the United States - if we can host 11 million illegal immigrants, adding five refugees whose lives we have upset is the least we can do. Mr el-Masri and Mr. Arar deserve to have their day in court or, failing that, there should be an inquiry (with some evidence given in secret) as to the reasons for their appalling treatment.

Sent to the Boston Globe

Student Loans

Deputy Secretary Kunin makes a convincing case for the abandonment of the discredited commercial loan scheme for students, but she does not go far enough.

What is needed is a restoration or even expansion of the student scholarship and grant programs that used to provide a substantial contribution to the costs of college.

In the 1980's Pell grants covered about two-thirds of the cost of a public four-year University, in recent years, it covers about 40%. This is one of the several ways in which the present generation is violating the idea of inter-generational equity with respect to student support.

The second has been the erosion of value in the minimum wage -- one argument for allowing the erosion to persist is that many of the minimum wage earners are young people living at home with their families. This may be so, but many young people may well be working in order to pay for or save for a college education. According to the College Board the average amount (in constant dollars) actually paid (after taking into account scholarship support) has increased 29% at Public 4-year Colleges (and almost 26% at Private 4-year Colleges) over the past 10 years. Over the same period, the value of the minimum wage has eroded from being worth $4.75 in 1996 to being worth $4.04 in 2006 -- a decline of almost 15%.

To maintain the affordability of College, we should be increasing the minimum wage to about $8.00 rather than to $7.25.

Finally, of course, is our failure to pay our way with debt piled upon debt that, in the end, our children will have to pay. If we are to go into debt, what better use for those funds than the education of our children.

Sent to New York Times

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Civil Unions and Gay Marriage

Here in Massachusetts, the only State in the Union to permit Gay Marriage, we are coming up to a State Constitutional Convention where a Constitutional amendment sponsored by a mean spirited coalition will be voted on by our legislators. If it passes, it will then go on a state-wide ballot to be voted up or down.

One of the arguments that the proponents make is that legislators are not voting on whether they agree with the marriage amendment. They are only saying whether they think that the people of the State have the right to vote on the issue.

"Only" is not the word to be used in this context. The question is whether the rights of our gay and lesbian neighbors can be abrogated by a vote of the people. I think not. The State constitution is designed to protect the unpopular.

And let us leave religion out of this. We are talking here about the right to a Civil Marriage -- the kind of marriage you get at the courthouse or from a Justice of the Peace, not the kind you get in a church, mosque, or synagogue. The U.S Constitution mandates the separation of Church and State. It should be applied rigorously in this case.

In my view the legislators should not vote on the basis of their religious beliefs. They should not vote in favor of the amendment because the Archbishop told them to, or their Minister told them to, or even because their constituents told them to. The members of the legislature should vote unanimously against this amendment because it has the potential to deprive some of our fellow citizens of their civil rights.

Other States should rapidly adopt Massachusetts forward looking position.

Sent to New York Times

Civil Unions and Gay Marriage

Here in Massachusetts, the only State in the Union to permit Gay Marriage, we are coming up to a State Constitutional Convention where a Constitutional amendment sponsored by a mean spirited coalition will be voted on by our legislators. If it passes, it will then go on a state-wide ballot to be voted up or down.

One of the arguments that the proponents make is that legislators are not voting on whether they agree with the marriage amendment. They are only saying whether they think that the people of the State have the right to vote on the issue.

"Only" is not the word to be used in this context. The question is whether the rights of our gay and lesbian neighbors can be abrogated by a vote of the people. I think not. The State constitution is designed to protect the unpopular.

And let us leave religion out of this. We are talking here about the right to a Civil Marriage -- the kind of marriage you get at the courthouse or from a Justice of the Peace, not the kind you get in a church, mosque, or synagogue. The U.S Constitution mandates the separation of Church and State. It should be applied rigorously in this case.

In my view the legislators should not vote on the basis of their religious beliefs. They should not vote in favor of the amendment because the Archbishop told them to, or their Minister told them to, or even because their constituents told them to. The members of the legislature should vote unanimously against this amendment because it has the potential to deprive some of our fellow citizens of their civil rights.

Other States should rapidly adopt Massachusetts forward looking position.

Sent to New York Times

Monday, June 11, 2007

Apropos Roger Clegg's letter on Justice Thomas's view

Your correspondent Roger Clegg writes, "I suspect that many of Justice Thomas's critics would be horrified if they thought that the Bush Administration were ignoring the text of the Constitution or a federal law to advance what it viewed as a higher moral truth."

No need to suspect! We are horrified that the Bush administration (with the consent of a supine congress) has revoked habeas corpus. We are horrified that it has ignored its solemn obligations under international law (the Geneva Convention, The International Criminal Court, and the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations).

We are horrified by its espousal of torture and extraordinary rendition which are contrary to the rule of law.

To advance a higher moral truth, the means must be moral too.

Sent to New York Times

Show us the Money

I strongly endorse Susan Reed's plea that companies should reveal all compensation paid to each employee (Show us the money, New York Times, June 4, 2007, A23). Over 40 years ago, Industrial Psychologist, Ed Lawler, showed that pay secrecy reduced motivation in organizations. This occurred because in those answers to "nosy questions about pay to find out where they ranked" people lied and said that their compensation was greater than it actually was.

This had two effects: first people didn't believe there was any link between performance and pay because even mediocre performers seemed to be receiving high pay; second aspiring to high pay as a goal was devalued because any one, it seemed, could attain it. This results in reduced motivation to perform well.

Such transparency will also make more salient the gross disparity between top manager's pay and that of the rank and file. That and the desire not to have to justify salary differentials will make it difficult for firms to accept this transparency.
Sent to New York Times

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Bush's Rhetoric

You remark that Bush's rhetoric was "different and heartening" (Playing to the crowd, New York Times, June 1, 2007, A30).

Bush's rhetoric is always heartening, at least when he can get the words out straight.

It is in execution that he falls down.

His rhetoric in Jackson Square, New Orleans was superb but he has yet to waive the state and local matching contributions to reconstruction costs that are needed for the main federal funds to flow.

What is he waiting for?

Sent to New York Times