What is your HOP level?

An interesting article in NY Magazine discusses conspiracy theories and the secret history of 9/11. As well as mentioning a few of the suspicious facts about what happened that day, it cites a score to categorize just how far along the conspiracy theory path you are: the HOP level. Me, I’m about a Level 3.5. Everyone has to have a theory, and here’s mine: Consider the October surprise conspiracy. Whether that conspiracy is true or not, the Iran-Contra scandal is at the level of documented fact, and it’s hard to deny that the sudden freeing of the hostages immediately after Reagan took office was a vital popularity boost for an otherwise unpopular president.

Business ethics, Part 1

Thank you, Bush administration. I’ve just been required to spend the most mind-numbing couple of hours carefully reading page after page of ethical guidelines. Rules that should be blatantly obvious to anyone with any ethical sense whatsoever. It’s all about ensuring that I don’t do things like take Dick Cheney out to the Country Club in order to get juicy government contracts on a no-bid basis, or organize a price-fixing system to defraud California.

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You may know that the NSA are not supposed to carry out surveillance against American citizens, as per US Signals Intelligence Directive 18, unless given special permission by the Attorney General. You may also know that the Supreme Court has ruled that the NSA cannot spy against US citizens. They used to get around this by working with GCHQ in the UK—GCHQ would spy on Americans, the NSA would spy on the English, and they’d exchange data.

Faint praise

When I first heard that Bush and Rumsfeld had signed off on pro-torture policy documents written by our new Attorney General, one of my first thoughts was: How will they react when American soldiers are tortured by foreign powers? The answer, amazingly enough, is that they are being consistent. The Bush administration is now fighting Gulf War veterans in court, trying to prevent them from claiming compensation for being tortured by Saddam Hussein.

Adios Ashcroft

With Ashcroft’s departure, George W. Bush has a chance to make a symbolic gesture towards uniting the nation. Instead, he has chosen Alberto Gonzales as the new Attorney General. That’s the Alberto Gonzales who wrote the memo urging that the president declare the US exempt from the Geneva Convention, because otherwise US behavior could lead to war crimes prosecutions. If you had any doubt that a vote for the Bush administration would be rewarding those who supported torture, that doubt should now be dispelled.

Dirty Money for PBS

If you watch New Hampshire Public Television (WENH) for a while, chances are you’ll see an advertisement stating that the programming is sponsored by BAE Systems of New Hampshire. The TV ad shows happy smiling families playing baseball to raise money for the American Cancer Research Fund, and ends with the slogan “BAE Systems: A Global Company With A Local Heart”. Heartwarming stuff. Unless, of course, you know who BAE Systems actually are.

Was that a buck I saw whizz past?

Seymour Hersh is the journalist who broke the story of the My Lai massacre, a Pulitzer prize winner. He’s got a new book out. Expect to see it rubbished extensively on TV. Evidence of prisoner abuse and possible war crimes at Guantánamo Bay reached the highest levels of the Bush administration as early as autumn 2002, but Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, chose to do nothing about it, according to a new investigation published exclusively in the Guardian today.

Foxes guarding the henhouse?

The 9/11 Commission recommended setting up an organization to help safeguard civil liberties. Sure enough the Bush administration has gone ahead and created a President’s Board on Safeguarding Americans’ Civil Liberties. Ignoring for the moment the issue that civil liberties should, constitutionally, be protected for everyone and not just US citizens, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the people who are being put in charge of safeguarding your freedoms.

Medical ethics and US torture

This month’s edition of The Lancet features an extensively footnoted article by Dr Stephen Miles which describes some of the issues of medical ethics in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. A few lowlights: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found that the medical system failed to maintain internment cards with medical information necessary to protect the detainees’ health as required by the Geneva Convention; this reportedly was due to a policy of not officially processing (ie, recording their presence in the prison) new detainees.

Politics

Wednesday’s Guardian had a story with the headline Bush names rightwing Republican as CIA chief. I half expected to see a story elsewhere on the page saying Study confirms bears defecate in woods or Pope announces he isn’t Jewish. Yes, I’m talking about the guy who says he’s not qualified for a job at the CIA. Also yesterday, Wikipedia’s featured article was MKULTRA. I must admit, I was amazed by some of the details.