Monthly Archives: August 2009

Interrogation tactics more severe than we suspected

Recently declassified documents into “enhanced interrogation techniques” used in the war on terror have people from opposing political viewpoints equally angered.

President Obama recently released part of a 2004 CIA inspector general’s report into interrogation methods. Critics of the Bush administration have escalated their calls for prosecutions of those who authorized what they are calling torture. Obama’s critics, however, have claimed he has diminished national security.

The question of what interrogators have done to extract information from terrorist suspects becomes murkier as time passes. Now it appears tactics even more dubious than water-boarding were used, and it’s indeed very troubling.

The guidelines for what’s acceptable when questioning suspects need to be clarified. We as a nation don’t condone torture, and those who engaged in it must be prosecuted.

Some will say our ability to gather life-saving intelligence has ben compromised, but don’t listen to them.

Yes, the report also showed information obtained that showed additional acts of terrorism were planned. But we don’t know if what constituted enhanced interrogation techniques were used to get this intelligence or if we could have gotten the same information through other means.

And it’s also unknown if any of these plots were advanced to the point where they would likely have been carried out. Were these plots on the verge of becoming reality, or were they still in the early stages of planning? And if so, would other investigative methods have uncovered the plot before it was hatched?

We cannot say we promote law and order, civilization and human rights if we violate all these principles in pursuit of security. There is a reason we don’t tolerate torture against our own citizens when it comes to law enforcement — it doesn’t work. We shouldn’t dole out on others that which we don’t believe is acceptable for us.

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Group to discuss single-payer health care

Have some thoughts on how a single-payer system would impact our health care industry? The DuPage County Green Party will hold a panel discussion on this issue at the Downers Grove Public Library, 1050 Curtiss St., at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27.

This is part of the group’s Social Justice Forum. I not a fan of the single-payer system, but I plan to attend this event to hear different perspectives. Hope to you there.

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Cash for Clunkers program has more drawbacks to it than it does benefits

I have to give my good buddy Dave Diersen of Wheaton his props for correctly pointing out the utter wastefulness of the Cash for Clunkers program.

Diersen has been all over this aspect of the federal plan to stimulate car sales. On his Web site, GOPUSA Illinois, he said that cars could be given to poor people to use rather than having them destroyed. Now I suspect Diersen would criticize the program for increasing poor people’s dependence on the government if they were given cars, but all in all he makes a valid point.

The Cash for Clunkers program offers fianncial incentives (from $3,500 to $4,500) to people who turn in cars that meet certain criteria, chief among them that the cars gets no more than 18 miles per gallon. Then these people can buy a new car that gets better gas mileage.

The idea behind the program is to remove less fuel-efficient cars from the road and to spur the sale of cars that are more fuel efficient. The “clunkers” are then destroyed, for the most part, with only specified parts of each car able to be salvaged.

I agree with Diersen that this is a complete waste of at least some cars that are still driveable. Yes, these cars don’t get the best gas mileage, and it’s better for the environment to have more people driving cars with improved gas mileage. But individuals or groups could make use of these cars, despite their lower fuel efficiency.

And there is a caveat in the hypothesis that putting more cars with better gas mileage on the roads will help the environment. Buying more fuel-efficient cars will reduce automotive emissions only if the people who bought the cars don’t drive any more than they did with the less fuel-efficient vehicles. And history has shown this not to be the case.

People tend to evaluate their driving needs based on how much gas they can afford in a day, week or month. Studies have shown that people who move from owning less fuel-efficient cars to more fuel-efficient cars generally start driving more often.

Why? Because the $30 to $50 they put in their car’s gas tank each week now gets them more mileage. In other words, they won’t pull more money from their wallets that they already have budgeted for gas.

They see this as a pocketbook issue, not a carbon footprint issue. And if they can get more driving out of the same amount of money, why not?

Under the Cash for Clunkers program, the entire engine and other parts like the transaxle system are put out of commission before being shredded. I understand the goal of getting gas-guzzling engines off the road, but what about parts of the engine that could be reused in rebuilding more fuel-efficient engines? There has to be some.

What happened to the goal of recycling? And what are they going to do with all the waste generated from the newly shredded vehicles? Doesn’t anyone believe this waste will leave a huge carbon footprint of its own?

The last question is how are we going to pay for the billions of dollars that have already been pumped into this program? Car dealers are thrilled as are the consumers who are taking advantage of it, and this in itself isn’t bad. But when you add in the drawbacks, Cash for Clunkers doesn’t really seem worth it all.

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Want to improve your chances of living? Get rid of your health insurance

The DuPage County Green Party held a rally with U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich from Ohio regarding health care held last weekend in Aurora.

Here is part of what the press release said: “In the U.S., 22,000 people die every year due to lack of health care.” I’m going out on a limb to predict that most of the people who lack health care aren’t insured.

Given that more than 2 million people in total die in the United States each year, the majority of them must have insurance. So are the uninsured less likely to die?

Yes, it sounds crazy, but here are my numbers. The U.S. population is about 350 million, and 46 million are listed as not having insurance. That leaves about 304 million who are insured.

Annual U.S. deaths are about 2.4 million. If you subtract the 22,000 people who die from lack of health care (they don’t have insurance) from the total number of 2,448,017 people who died in 2008, that leaves 2,426,017 who died with insurance.

To figure out the percentage of uninsured people who died last year, divide 22,000 by 45 million. That’s 4.78 percent.

Now to figure out the percentage of insured people who died last year, divide 2,426,017 by 304 million. That’s 7.98 percent.

Statistically, you’re more than one-a-half times more likely to die if you have health insurance than if you don’t. Wow, I don’t think President Obama would want to tout those numbers while promoting his universal health care plan.

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