What Could We Accomplish?

The ESA has some spectacular hires photographs of France’s Millau bridge, including a hi res image taken from orbit by the Proba satellite.

The Millau bridge is the world’s highest bridge, reaching nearly 900 ft. and is over a mile and a half long.

Although designed by a British architect (Lord Norman Foster) it just goes to show that sometimes French people may be justified occasionally in their attitudes and meanness.

The $517 million project is considered to be a masterpiece of modern engineering. It was built to complete a new motorway between Paris and the Mediterranean – a route that previously had become conjested through the little town near the River Tarn.

Interestingly, this monumental achievement costs the exact same amount as Safeco Stadium here in Seattle. Yet our traffic problems remain insurmountable.

If we combined the cost of the Seahawks Stadium, we could probably have built two of these bridges. Just one tiny little mini one would be good enough to solve the waterfront’s viaduct problem, though…

Hmmm….

Interview: Richard Stallman

There is a great interview with the GNU founder Richard Stallman – who I greatly respect and admire for the wild direction he took when he discovered a large, even social, problem – and his unwavering adherence to his ethics in the midst of tremendous pressure, both from the “corporate world” and even from within the GNU/Linux world.

To me, this man is a beacon in the world – not just in software – but for any person confronted with questions of conscience in the face of adversity.

Here is one quote:

“Some people seriously claim that you can’t criticize what someone does if it is part of their job. From my point of view, the fact that somebody is being paid to do something wrong is not an excuse.”

War, the Spanish Inquisition and US

Yes, we are at war. When you are attacked, or go to war, passions rise. They cloud reason. They distort our humanity.

That is why things like the Geneva Convention exist – to give civilized nations a moral compass in the midst of these passions.

MoveOn.org is asking people to sign a petition asking the US Congress to require the Presidental nominee for Attorney General to sign a Declaration Against Torture before being confirmed in that position.

The nominee, Alberto Gonzales, was the man advising the Bush Administration that the current state of war we were in rendered the Geneva Conventions obsolete – opening the door for the Bush Administration to disregard both our laws, international laws, international accords and basic Christian values, which Bush claims to support.

You can sign this petition to Congress asking them to require Gonzales to renounce torture.

I’m also including the letter from MoveOn.org and the declaration below.

We hate to start the New Year with bad news, but on Thursday, the Senate will consider Alberto Gonzales’ nomination to become Attorney General, replacing John Ashcroft. Gonzales is the White House counsel notorious for opening the door to torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons. Senators should view the Gonzales nomination very skeptically, given this radical history. As part of the upcoming hearings, we’re calling on Senators to ask Gonzales to unequivocally renounce torture as an instrument of American policy.

You can ask Gonzales and Senators to prohibit torture by clicking here:

http://www.moveon.org/gonzales/

We’re working with a strong coalition — including Amnesty International, FaithfulAmerica, TrueMajority, and Win Without War — to ask Gonzales to sign our Declaration Against Torture. Gonzales should renounce his extreme and dangerous position, and reaffirm American respect for human dignity and the rule of law.

Gonzales’ record is appalling. Prisoners of war from all nations have long been protected by the Geneva Conventions. In 2002, Gonzales wrote a memo to President Bush arguing the war on terror renders the Geneva Conventions “quaint” and “obsolete.”1 His radical legal reasoning opened the door to the terrible abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.2 Even in light of this atrocity, Gonzales has never retracted or clarified what has come to be known as the secret “Torture Memo.”

For more than a century, the U.S. has opposed the torture of prisoners through the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture. American law prohibits torture, allowing no exceptions whatsoever. Gonzales’ argument gives President Bush, as commander in chief, the authority to sidestep laws passed by Congress. In so doing, he replaced the traditional notion of checks and balances with a presidential power more akin to that of a king.

Torture isn’t just immoral and illegal — it’s a strategic mistake that makes us all less safe. Responding to Gonzales’ torture memo, Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote that ignoring the Geneva Conventions will “undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops.” And by inciting anti-American hatred, torture bolsters the position of extremists and boosts terrorist recruitment, making the world less secure. Torture doesn’t even work to find out about attacks before they happen, since people usually give falsified information to escape the pain.

As President Bush’s chief legal adviser, Gonzales crafted means of evading the founding principle that the U.S. is a nation of laws, not of men. His infamous “Torture Memo” paved the way to Abu Ghraib, robbing America of international respect. Together, we can demand Gonzales renounce torture if he wishes to uphold the law as Attorney General of the United States.

Sign the petition at:

http://www.moveon.org/gonzales/

Thank you for fighting to restore American values to our government, and for all you do.

Sincerely,

–The MoveOn Team
Tuesday, January 4th, 2005

P.S. Thanks for your immense generosity to victims of the tsunami disaster. MoveOn members have raised over $2.6 million for Oxfam America’s work in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India. By giving, you became part of a worldwide groundswell that compelled governments to increase their giving — resulting in a record total $2 billion pledged.

Footnotes:
1. Former Military Leaders Oppose Gonzales Nomination, Bloomberg News, January 3, 2005
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=632

2. Fresh Details Emerge on Harsh Methods at Guantanamo, New York Times, January 1, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/01/national/01gitmo.html

And here is the Declaration Against Torture:

Whereas torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment

* are contrary to the fundamental moral values on which the United States was founded,
* violate United States and international law,
* increase the risk to U.S. citizens serving abroad, and as Secretary of State Colin Powell warned “undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops,”
* weaken national security by inciting anti-American hatred, fanning the flames of terrorist recruitment, and providing comfort to enemies of the United States,
* compromise the global fight against terrorism, by making foreign governments more reluctant to turn over suspected terrorists to the U. S.,
* are “useless as interrogation techniques,” according to the U.S. Army Field Manual.

We therefore unequivocally declare that the U.S. must:

1. respect and enforce, across all agencies, and among all employees and contract agents of the U.S. government, all obligations under the laws of war and duly ratified treaties that prohibit cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment;
2. state directly and forthrightly that torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are always unacceptable and that anyone who engages in such behavior or knowingly condones it will be punished;
3. apply to all detainees of the United States the legal definitions of torture contained in the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as incorporated in the U.S. Law of Land Warfare, banning “any … form of coercion” or “unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment” to get information from prisoners of war; and in the international Convention Against Torture (1984), to which the U.S. is party, prohibiting “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining … information;”
4. repudiate all claims of presidential power that allow for the use of torture, or for imprisonment without due process,
5. halt the practice of “extraordinary rendition,” by which some detainees and prisoners are transferred to nations that employ torture.