Saturday, 8 March 2008

America's shame

Bush Announces Veto of Waterboarding Ban

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 8, 2008; 1:47 PM

President Bush vetoed Saturday legislation meant to ban the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, saying it "would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror."

"This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
Congress approved an intelligence authorization bill that contains the waterboarding provision on slim majorities, far short of the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto.

Bush's long-expected veto reignites the Washington debate over the proper limits of U.S. interrogation policies and whether the CIA has engaged in torture by subjecting prisoners to severe tactics, including waterboarding, a type of simulated drowning.
The issue also has potential ramifications for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and a longtime critic of coercive interrogation tactics who nonetheless backed the Bush administration in opposing the CIA waterboarding ban. The Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), both support the ban, though neither was present for last month's Senate vote for the bill that Bush is to veto.

"It is shameful that George Bush and John McCain lack the courage to ban torture," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

McCain has said that, while he opposes waterboarding, he agrees with the Bush administration that the CIA needs to be able to use tactics banned by the military but which fall short of torture or cruel treatment.

The legislation would have limited the CIA to 19 less-aggressive tactics outlined in a U.S. Army field manual on interrogations. Besides ruling out waterboarding, that restriction would effectively ban temperature extremes, extended forced standing and other harsh methods that the CIA used on al-Qaeda prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The president said in his radio address that the agency needs to use tougher methods than the U.S. military to wrest information from terrorism suspects.

"Limiting the CIA's interrogation methods to those in the Army Field Manual would be dangerous because the manual is publicly available and easily accessible on the Internet. . . . If we were to shut down this program and restrict the CIA to methods in the Field Manual, we could lose vital information from senior al-Qaeda terrorists, and that could cost American lives," Bush said.

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has also spoken out against the Senate bill and defended the methods as lawful and effective.

"The US Army and CIA clearly have different missions, different capabilities and therefore different procedures," Hayden wrote in a message sent Saturday to CIA employees. "CIA's program, atightly controlled and carefully administered national option that goes beyond the Army Field Manual, has been a lawful and effective response to the national security demands that terrorism imposes."

Most of the Washington debate over the CIA interrogation program has focused on waterboarding, which was used on three al-Qaeda suspects held in secret prisons in 2002 and 2003. The tactic involves strapping a prisoner to a board with their head lower than their feet, placing cloth or cellophane over the face and pouring water on their head to make them fear they are drowning.

The practice as used by the CIA bears similarities to the methods of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and by the current dicatorship in Burma, according to congressional testimony and torture experts.

But as Bush emphasized in his remarks, the program also included other coercive tactics that are forbidden in the U.S. military and widely considered unlawful among human rights advocates.

The CIA has not specified all the tactics it wants to keep using but says it no longer uses waterboarding. Bush administration officials have not ruled out using waterboarding again.

Many Democrats and human-rights groups say coercive tactics are often counterproductive and that, regardless, constitute illegal torture under U.S. and international law. Frank Donaghue, chief executive officer of Physicians for Human Rights, said many of the agency's tactics may constitute war crimes.

"America must not be scared into thinking that these 'additional' tactics are anything other than what they are -- torture," Donaghue said in a statement Saturday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Bush has "compromised the moral leadership of our nation," and said the administration is ignoring the advice of military experts who oppose harsh techniques.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, suggested that those who support harsh methods simply lack experience and do not know what they are talking about. "If they think these methods work, they're woefully misinformed," Soyster said at a news briefing called in anticipation of the veto. "Torture is counterproductive on all fronts. It produces bad intelligence. It ruins the subject, makes them useless for further interrogation. And it damages our credibility around the world."

In two separate forums earlier this week, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander of the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defended the efficacy of less-coercive, "rapport-building" interrogation tactics.

"We get so much dependable information from just sitting down and having a conversation and treating them like human beings in a businesslike manner," Buzby told reporters in a conference call Thursday.

Staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report.

Friday, 7 March 2008

This just in.....

In a move designed to enhance National Security, President Bush today ordered the closure of all weather forecasting services throughout the World.

In a recorded statement Pres. Bush said “my chief concern is to project the Mercun people by providing nashnal shukurty at every level”.

The President went on to outline what he thinks some one once told him was the threat.

“Frintstance there are tererists in Vermont, waiting for a blizzard so that they can put rice in the nations supply of maple syrup. We all know the threat from rice in. We cannot give them advance notice with weather forecasts.

Throughout this great and free country there are dangerous cells of Al Colda recruits believed to be harbouring vast and mobile supplies of W.M.C’s (Weapons of Mass Cooling). In the ‘vent of a heat wave forecast they are even now preparing to plug in these W.M.C’s and thus overload the system and cause nashnul blackouts, and chaos in this Administrayshun”.

The President went on to outline what he saw as the dangers of hurricane forecasts. “These”, he said, “cause our southern border to be at great risk. Billions of illegal aliens are waiting in kayaks in the Gulf, just off Mexico, ready to paddle to this great and free country under the cover of a hurricane. We cannot assist them by providing warnings of hurricanes”.

In a related matter the President made reference to what he called “the myth of Global Warming”. He stated that he would deal with this in a forthcoming executive order. “In order to fulfil my solum oath to protect and defend this Nashun I will shortly announce the abolishment of weather. This bold act will deliver all God-fearing Mercuns from the fear mongering of the liberal press”.

The President ended by stating that he would consider outlawing rice in Chinese and South American dishes. He will stand firm, he went on to say, from the threat of rice in.

(via The Apoviated Press)

Thursday, 6 March 2008

By 'bus

My maternal Uncle Harold was a cobbler. But during the later 1950’s, mending shoes became a precarious way of making a living.

So Uncle Harold left his Last , and signed on to be a ‘bus conductor (ticket seller). This was not his forte. He was slow and fairly inept.

As luck would have it, he “conducted” on a ‘bus route which I took to school. I could hardly ignore him. So I greeted him “hello Uncle Harold”

But now that my school-mates knew his name, they teased him mercilessly as “Harold”. I would sink into my seat in embarrassment.

Luckily the Bristol Omnibus Company recognised his true skills, and moved him to the Easton Road ‘bus depot where he repaired the leather straps and pouches which all conductors used.

In 2004 I flew from Boston to London to visit with my brother Martyn, his wife Wendy, and their children Laura (then aged 16) and Sam (then aged 7). I took a ‘bus from London to Bristol, and even as I travelled I thought “I must take Sam to the Bristol Museum”.

Arriving in Bristol, Martyn. Laura and Sam met me at the ‘bus station. :Laura was the driver, Martyn sat to her left, and Sam & I took the back seat in the family car. No sooner had we left the ‘bus station, when Sam asked me if I would take him to the Bristol Museum!

So we struck a deal. And I took him there by ‘bus. It was his first time ever on a ‘bus. It was a double decker, and we sat upstairs on the very front seats. Such an adventure.


In needed to take a Sarasota ‘bus today. It’s a County service run under the strange name of SCAT (Sarasota County Area Transit) Arriving at the ‘bus depot I immediately met some of my friends from “Res House” - Stacey, he boyfriend Ken, and Ramon.

Indigent folks in Sarasota can get a monthly ‘bus pass for a minimal $2.

I boarded ‘bus #6. I noted three things:

First, that our ‘buses are equipped with easily operated loading platforms which enable wheel chair bound citizens to get on or off the “bus with comparative ease.

Second, that the ‘buses have bicycle racks, super for folks whose journeys need ‘bus and bike.

Third, that apart from two “apparent” students, I was the only white male on this ‘bus.

Jmp

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Killing time

Three or four years ago I was visiting a wonderful older parishioner, Maude Atchason.
She’d lived as a widow for many years, and now in her late eighties, lived a very quiet and (for her) an entirely boring life.

She said “I sometimes wonder why I have lived so long”. “I am glad that you did” was my reply.

“Oh” she said. “Yes” I replied, “if you had not lived so long, I would not have had a the great pleasure of knowing you”.

She said back in her chair, and thought for a moment. Then it came from her lips to my ears “that’s quite a line isn’t it. I bet you use that on old the old ladies”.

Touché.

Yesterday I was with a good friend whose beloved partner died last October. We were at a “Coffee Klatch” together, and he was ready to leave whilst I was engaged in a good conversation. By the time I was through, he was also in conversation, so not wishing to disturb him I moved outside to have a cigarette and wait.

He can out three or four minutes later; asking me if I was ready to leave. “Yes“, I said, “I was waiting for your conversation to end”.

“I was just killing time” was his rejoinder. “My life is over, and all I can do is kill time”.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Shopping

The other day I stopped into a local supermarket to buy some sliced “rotisserie turkey breast”. It’s the best available, it actually tastes like turkey.

The surly clerk (shop assistant) stood before me and uttered not a word. I ordered ½ lb of the turkey.

Again wordless, she moved back to the slicer. After a minute it became clear that she was slicing far more than ½ lb. I called out to her “I just need half a pound”, and she ignored me. She brought the meat to the scale. It weighed 1lb.42 ounces. I reminded her that I needed but half an pound. She glared at me as if I had said something indecent, and wordless again, she divided the turkey slices, glaring at me as she did so.

My now .45 lb of turkey breast in my hand, I thanked her. And you have already guessed what I know: this particular supermarket chain is a very poor employer.

Although I wished that the clerk could have been more upbeat, I think that I understand the reason for her surliness. Her bosses do not respect her or treat her well.

Last week I took my Brasilian friends for dinner at Terra Nossa, SRQ’s only Brasilian Restaurant. The food there is hearty and flavourful. It’s owned and run by a husband and wife. I’ve eaten there about eight times now, and each time the wife (Maitre-de and Waitress) greets me with a broad smile and a hug. Times are hard at Terra Nossa. Many Brasilians have returned home in the face of a declining American economy. It will be too bad if Terra Nossa has to close.

Today I headed east on Fruitville Road. This is one of SRQ’s main east/west thoroughfares. It begins at the coast hugging Route 41 (The Tamiami Trail - Tampa - Miami) and it is mostly a broad and fast six lane road until it reaches Interstate 75. Thereafter it is a two lane, semi rural road. It terminates some 12 miles east of Route 41.

I stopped first at the Grove, a wonderful fruit and vegetable market, run by a Mennonite family - Dad, Mum and seven children.

The sons look very American in their jeans and tee-shirts. 3 out of the four are sadly overweight (Mennonites do little other than work, pray and eat). The daughters look totally gorgeous in their long dresses and head coverings.

These young people leave school at aged 14, and then learn to work hard and pray a lot. They seem as contented, if not more, than their non-Mennonite contemporarys.

Mennonites are by training very reserved. But this reserve is abandoned at the Grove.
The parents and family are as friendly as they come, and go beyond the call of duty to make their customers happy.

Leaving the Grove, I headed about another 11 miles east to the little town of Myakka (or Miakka - both spellings are used).

There I headed for a nursery which specialises in Florida natural plants. I wanted to buy a couple of “Prostrate Porter Weeds”, a lovely low growing plant which is a great butterfly attractor.

The nursery (a little slice of heaven) is run by two women. Laurel is always upfront. She is clearly the people-person. She greeted me like a long lost friend (I’ve shopped there only once before), and found my plants as if it were the greatest pleasure of her life.

Oh how I love to spend my dollars at places such as the Grove, Terra Nossa and the Nursery, where I am greeted with such warm courtesy.

“Small is beautiful” eh?

Monday, 3 March 2008

Faith is not magic

(Adapted from a story told yesterday (2nd March ’08) by the Revd. David Danner in his sermon at All Angels by the Sea, Longboat Key, FL)

A Priest and his Atheist friend were playing golf. The Priest blessed himself with the sign of the Cross when putting. His putting was perfect.

The Atheist fared poorly. He just did not put well. After eight holes he said to the Priest:

“I know that you are a believer, and you know that I am an Atheist. But I have been watching you, and see that you make the sign of the Cross before you put. Would you be offended if I also made the sign of the Cross”.

The Priest replied:

“Sure, make the sign of the Cross if you wish, but it will not do you a bit of good”.

Ready to be offended the Atheist asked “why?”.

“Because“, replied the Priest, “you are a lousy putter”.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Good Shepherd, West Fitchburg

I moved from England to Massachusetts in 1976. I’d been ordained Deacon in Bristol (U.K.) Cathedral on 27th June, and the then Bishop of Western Massachusetts (Alexander Doig Stewart) had asked me to become Deacon-in-Charge (later Priest-in-Charge) of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Fitchburg, MA. I’d met Bishop Stewart the year before when I did a summer internship in western Massachusetts.

I came to Good Shepherd on a two year contract, which stretched into four years. Those four years morphed into thirty, and I have never served a parish in England.

It was clear from day one that Good Shepherd and I were a good match. It was a blue collar parish, established in west Fitchburg in 1901 by C.T. Crocker, the beloved and beautifully paternalistic owner of many local paper mills. He was a good employer, and our sub division of west Fitchburg had its own moniker “Crockerville”.

The people of Good Shepherd were loving and generous to a fault, and I bloomed under their care. I met folks whom I will never forget: Al and Doris Williams from Bristol, U.K.; “Red” and June Jess; the Aldrich brothers Leon and Wally with their wives, Mabel and Mary (?), and an Aldrich widow, Helen, (Mrs. Russell) who was a member of the John Birch Society.

There was Sam and Kitty Doak, folks whose wisdom changed my life for the better. I’ll write about them one day. And Thelma Osgood whose husband, Milton died just ten weeks after I arrived at Good Shepherd. She’s now been a widow for 32 years, and just a few of us remember her husband. Thelma did a funny comedy routine under the pseudonym of Katie O’Sullivan.

I cannot forget the wonderful Ruth Proctor, and my beloved Secretary, Ida Andrews.

Today I have been thinking about Annie and Jessie Speed. They were two sisters from South Molton, Devonshire, who had married two brothers. Both were widows when I arrived in 1976.

Annie was the more proper of the two. I visited her and her daughter Ruth (Card) many times. Annie would make tea, and Ruth and I would giggle at Annie’s ingrained habit of pouring a drop of tea into the sink before she filled our cups. Annie was a pillar of the Church, and in a real and important sense the Matriarch of Good Shepherd.

Her daughter Ruth now lives in Atlanta, GA, close to her only son Steve, his partner Rick, and Steve’s children and grandchildren from his married days


Jessie had a naughty and funny twist. She lived right next to her son “Bucky” (Gordon) Speed and his wife and five children. I could tease Jessie and get as good as I gave.

In 1979 I planned a trip to England to officiate at the wedding of my brother Martyn to his beloved Wendy. I asked Annie and Jessie if they wished to travel with me and go down to Devonshire to see the town and siblings they had last seen in about 1926.

Annie declined, but Jessie was game. We flew to England with my friend the Revd. Paul Goranson. We had side aisle seats, Paul and the window, Jessie in the middle, and I at the aisle. We slept for a few hours. When we awoke Jessie said “I am going to tell all my friends that I slept between two Priests”! She had a great family reunion in South Molton, and also spent some time with my family in Bristol.

Both Annie and Jessie were past masters at making Devonshire Clotted Cream.

Annie would make some, and I would tell her “your sister’s cream is not a patch on yours”.

Jessie would make cream and I would tell her “this is much better than Annie’s”.

They rumbled me so quickly.

I treasure my memories of Good Shepherd where I served from 1976 - 1980.