Tortured Logic on Torture

 Crime, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Society  Comments Off on Tortured Logic on Torture
Apr 262009
 

Wooden_stocks.jpgSen. John McCain was on Face the Nation Sunday morning, and the contortions he went through to let the previous administration off the hook for their illegal torturing was astounding.

He starts off reiterating that he and his (ahem) friend Lindsey Graham talked to Al-Qaeda operatives who said that U.S. torture was a main recruiting tool they used. He goes on to try claim that it was all just the result of some bad legal advice…despite being sure he took credit for passing a law prohibiting torture. So, it was important for him to get the bill passed, but not important for the Bush regime’s lawyers to read it?

They are still trying to get traction with the canard about it being all about settling political scores, and how we just move on and take care of the two wars we are in. Again, what score does Obama have to settle. He didn’t even serve a full term in the Senate, and he wasn’t running against Bush. And McCain has the gall, after the campaign he ran, to say, “We need a united nation, not a divided one.”

Early in the interview McCain makes the claim that he believes no other Administration will ever make the same mistake (of using bad legal advice…I guess), and torture again. But then he tries to use the Ford pardon of Nixon as a justification to move on. Obviously, not pardoning Nixon allowed the Bush administration to believe, as Nixon said, “if the President does it, it’s not illegal.” This is incredibly twisted logic.

But here’s the real kicker to it all. While McCain is arguing that there should be no retribution against the legal hacks of the Bush/Cheney Regime, he says (after admitting we violated the Geneva Conventions), “and by the way, those who say our enemies won’t abide by the Geneva Conventions…uh they will if they know there’s going to be retribution for their violation.”

Continue reading »

Lessons That Came At Too Painful A Cost

 Constitution, Crime, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Society, War  Comments Off on Lessons That Came At Too Painful A Cost
Feb 272009
 

The Youtube clip includes a statement from Senator Leahy about his proposal to have a commission look into the possible crimes of the Bush Administration. It continues with a statement by Senator Whitehouse. Whitehouse, as a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees is in a position to have some idea of what has gone on in regards to our torture and rendition activities. In light of a stern and direct warning that when the details of what Amerikkah did under the Bush Administration comes out, it’s not going to be pretty, I am set back on my heels.

It must have been bad, and Whitehouse says that we are going to be contrite and embarrassed. Many people on the right and in the Republican party would rather that we ignore the war crimes of those years. Even Obama has talked about only “looking forward,” but as Senator Leahy says, if we don’t confront these things, the past can be a prologue for the future. I hope that is unacceptable to you all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTzJf7m2NL0

Finally-A Judge Who Understands the Constitution

 Constitution, Crime, Politics, Presidency, Society, The Courts  Comments Off on Finally-A Judge Who Understands the Constitution
Feb 242009
 

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that a Federal Judge is questioning the constitutionality of the law designed to give the telecommunications companies blanket immunity for their illegal wiretaps. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has asked President Obama’s Justice Department to present its views by Wednesday on whether the law gives the attorney general too much power to decide whether a company is immune from lawsuits.

This is some progress, but Obama voted for the law when he was a Senator, and during his confirmation hearings last month, Attorney General Eric Holder indicated he would defend the law.

Under the law, a judge is required to dismiss a wiretapping suit against a telecommunications firm if the attorney general explains the firm’s role to the judge in a confidential statement. The government would say either that the firm had no role or that it participated based on assurances that the president had approved the eavesdropping to protect the nation from terrorism.

Judge Walker rightfully notes that the law appears to set no criteria for the attorney general to use when deciding if he will “grant” immunity for a particular company. I’m guessing it doesn’t because then Presidents Bush/Chenney were fighting to protect their friends. Walker is relying on a 1944 Supreme Court ruling which sets constitutional limits on laws granting power to the President.

Oh, I forgot, under Bush, the Constitution was just a “quaint old document.”

Only Looking Forward Is Not An Option

 Constitution, Corruption, Crime, Featured, Politics, Presidency, Society  Comments Off on Only Looking Forward Is Not An Option
Feb 062009
 

No less than former President Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel says that we must consider investigating (and if appropriate) prosecuting members of the Bush 43 Administration for torture and crimes against humanity. I would suggest reading the complete article, but here’s an excerpt:

My question is how can the Obama Administration not investigate, and, if appropriate, prosecute given the world is watching, because if they do not, other may do so? How could there be “change we can believe in” if the new administration harbors war criminals – which is the way that Philippe Sands and the rest of the world, familiar with the facts which have surfaced even without an investigation, view those who facilitated or engaged in torture?

One would think that people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Gonzales, Yoo, Haynes and others, who claim to have done nothing wrong, would call for investigations to clear themselves if they really believed that to be the case. Only they, however, seem to believe in their innocence – the entire gutless and cowardly group of them, who have shamed themselves and the nation by committing crimes against humanity in the name of the United States.

We must all hope that the Obama Administration does the right thing, rather than forcing another country to clean up the mess and seek to erase the dangerous precedent these people have created for our country.

The testimony by Phillip Sands, Law Professor, to which he refers is here:

The evidence is remarkably clear, and I fail to see how anyone can turn a blind eye to this most egregious blot on America’s place in the world.

I hear the arguments that we must look forward and not back, but those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. We must, as a country, learn our lesson. We must take the appropriate rebuke from ourselves, and ensure that a clear message is sent to those in America who have come to believe that torture is OK if supporting it gets them votes. We most show the rest of the world that America gives no quarter to torturers, be they foreign or domestic.

It will not be a pleasant time in our history, but neither have the past eight years been pleasant. Our moral authority in the world has collapsed and is non-existent. Often we stood alone as the honest broker for what is right, but today we stand only as hypocrites.

I believe that the new Attorney General must appoint a Special Prosecutor, and an investigation must be conducted into the conduct of the Bush Administration in regards to torture, rendition and false imprisonment. These are all things explicitly detailed in America’s original Declaration of Independence as being unacceptable behavior by then King George. Our King George did no better, and just as America’s Founding Fathers called him to task for his transgressions, modern Patriots can do no less.

Jan 202009
 

I took time out, as did a lot of Americans, and watched today’s ceremonies swearing in Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. As you might expect, I have some opinions on the ceremony and some of the participants.

I was as upset as anyone who despises hate mongering and bigotry, especially when perpetrated for personal gain, at the selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation. Well, karma’s a bitch for the new President. In an otherwise flawless, stately, and eloquent ceremony,  Rick Warren was the low point. His speech was halting and confused. He was long-winded, and frankly sounded like some corn-pone hick (and being one myself, I know ’em when I hear ’em). His inflection and style lacked gravitas and humility and at times he seemed false, and was clearly mugging for the camera instead of concentrating on the prayer.

The next lowest point for me, frankly, was the poem. I admit to not being much of a reader of poetry, but that thing had me completely dumbfounded. I guess Mya Angelou’s poem, “On The Pulse of Morning,” at Clinton’s inauguration spoiled me. She had me in tears.

Rev. Lowery’s benediction was better poetry, and his rhetoric certainly more lofty than Warren’s.

And then, since he had to foist one last screw-up on the American people, Bush’s Chief Justice didn’t seem to bother to memorize the Constitutionally mandated oath of office. The only oath proscribed in the Constitution is the one for President, and John Roberts, Chief arbiter of the Constitution, apparently couldn’t be bothered to memorize it or at least write himself a crib note.

Obama’s speech was excellent, and touched on all the right themes. He seemed to offer a very strong repudiation to the fear and hate mongering of the past eight years. I hope his administration goes all out to reverse the scorched earth left by Bush/Cheney, Inc. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him, and he rightly called on Americans to be prepared to help. If we do, there really isn’t anything we can’t accomplish. It was a speech that called us to task for taking our eyes off the prize, and giving in to the Republican dogma of “us vs. them,” free-market greed above all else, and the fallacy of trickle down economics.

“We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”

And despite all that, I think the part I enjoyed most was watching Yo Yo Ma playing the John Williams piece with the quartet. It wasn’t so much the music, as the expression on Ma’s face. While the other performers had the usual and expected expression of concentration, Ma just had a smile of pure joy and excitement at what he was doing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDUTM3NViHc

I’m a sucker for the ceremonies of state, and today’s was “high church.” Barack and Michele Obama, and his children, were just the height of grace and beauty, and it does give me some hope that maybe a new day has begun.

Canned Goods and Ammo

 Business, Congress, Featured, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on Canned Goods and Ammo
Sep 292008
 

I’ve been joking with a co-worker this afternoon that, given what happened today with the economic bailout package, and Wall Street’s reaction, we need to get to the grocery store to buy canned goods and ammo. Unfortunately, that may not be too far from reality. Most of the Republicans, and enough Democrats voted against the bail out plan that it failed and the Dow Jones Industrial Average nose-dived over 777 points. That’s the largest one day drop ever.

So what will happen next? I’m not sure, but this can easily turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy resulting in a downward spiral. The Asian and European markets will most likely have huge drops over night, which could result in even more declines on Wall Street tomorrow when trading resumes. I’m sure the pundits and reporters, along with the analysts, are all wringing their hands and predicting the end of the world as we know it, and that could cause just that result as confidence tumbles.

I’ve been getting emails from some outfit called True Majority. They’ve been stirring the pot, along with other organizations, to get people to contact their representatives and oppose the bailout. They think this a good thing, and that now Congress can fix things by:

  • Putting real regulations back on runaway financial corporations, and taking an ownership stake in exchange for any taxpayer support
  • Providing mortgage relief so ordinary Americans stop losing their homes
  • Putting millions to work by investing in new green jobs and infrastructure
  • Investing in a health care plan to cover everyone

These are all certainly noble goals, and the whole Reaganomics idea that wealth trickles down has never worked. The wealthy get more wealthy only when the economy is producing jobs, and people have money to spend. This enriches those that own the means of production and the raw materials. Reaganomics shuts down the creation of additional wealth, and all the Bush Administration and the Republicans have done is enable a transfer of the existing wealth to a select few of their friends. Now it’s all been accumulated, and no additional wealth is being created.

The bullets above, published by this True Majority outfit, will result in the creation of new and additional wealth, and everyone can participate, so it’s a good thing, but these are long term fixes. If the economy completely crashes, none of the shit above means anything, as there won’t be the resources to accomplish it. Continue reading »

The Economic Crisis

 Congress, Featured, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on The Economic Crisis
Sep 262008
 

I know you can hardly wait for my take on the current economic crisis. I’ll be the first to admit, that like John McCain has said, I’m no expert on the economy. Certainly there are a lot of “financial products” out there I don’t have a clue about, but there are some things about the market and the politics around it I do understand.

Some are concerned there’s no real emergency. I can certainly see how one can come to that conclusion. The Bush administration has used this “emergency” concept once too often. As Bush himself famously said, “fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.” Some people believe this may be just a gimmick to get a huge chunk for one last parting gift for Dick Cheney’s buddies. This is not out of the question from this administration.

Others believe the government should do nothing, and let the free market take care of itself. This comes from some well respected economists, and I can see their point. I’ve written some on the idea of the “free markets” in this previous post. One economist I listened to this morning on NPR was pointing out that Warren Buffet (no dummy when it comes to economic decisions) had already seen an opportunity and seized on it, and that a buyer had come forward for Washington Mutual (WaMu) in fairly short order. In other words, where there are gaps, they will be filled by people looking to make a buck. And I find nothing wrong with that.

I am also opposed to overly-burdensome government regulation on business. However, the past eight years of constant deregulation has clearly shown us that there has to be a level of trust within the system. I’d like to think that all these big Wall Street firms and publicly traded companies are trustworthy, but we knew from previous experience they are not. Some level of trust and accountability must be enforced. There wasa time when a man’s word was his bond, and a handshake was all that was needed to “seal a deal.” Unfortunately, one can’t count on that today, so we have contracts and a whole contracts law industry.

Having said all of this, it does appear there may be a need to “grease the rails” some to keep the economy from taking a huge plunge, and to prevent the pool of credit from drying up. We’re seeing some of this happen right now. The question would be, how deep could it go, and how long would it last. If it’s a fairly short term occurrence, a few months, the country can weather that. There would be some pain, but we’d get by. The concern is that without some intervention. the economy would go on the skids, and while I agree with those who believe a free market can right itself, the question becomes how much and how long is the pain before it recovers.

I’ll give the people in Washington some benefit of the doubt, and support a bailout that helps mitigate the downturn. However, $700 Billion of taxpayer money, given over to a single, unelected individual with an explicit restriction against any oversight is completely unacceptable. Just like with deregulation, we’ve had nearly eight years of no oversight (and this includes you Democratic members of Congress also), and it has lead to a string of problems now all coming to fruition. So the plan, as proposed by the Bush Administration is a non-starter for me.  Continue reading »

EFF Sues the NSA and Bush Over Illegal Wiretaps

 Constitution, Corruption, Crime, Politics, Society  Comments Off on EFF Sues the NSA and Bush Over Illegal Wiretaps
Sep 192008
 

CNet News is reporting that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed suit against the NSA, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Alberto Gonzales on behalf of AT&T customers in order to try to halt what EFF calls “massive illegal” warrant-less surveillance of Americans.

“For years, the NSA has been engaged in a massive and massively illegal fishing expedition through AT&T’s domestic networks and databases of customer records,” senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston said in a statement. “Our goal in this new case against the government, as in our case against AT&T, is to dismantle this dragnet surveillance program as soon as possible.”

The EFF as tried suing before, but lost at the Federal Appeals Court level, and the SCOTUS refused to intervene. The Appeals Court dismissed the original case on narrow procedural grounds, and never ruled on the legality of the case or the surveillance. I guess EFF is hoping to try to finally get a hearing on legality of the surveillance.

Social Security and The Economy

 Election, Politics  Comments Off on Social Security and The Economy
Sep 192008
 

I seem to recall that George Bush was all in favor of privatizing Social Security and having us all put all of our retirement funds in the stock market. I have a 401K at work. Unfortunately the company doesn’t contribute to it, but that’s not what this post is about. I checked yesterday, and my annual rate of return on it so far this year is -24%. (Yes, that’s a minus…negative in front of it.) So where would people be who depend solely on Social Security if their accounts had suddenly taken a 24% hit.

Mr. Reformer, John McCain, voted three times with Bush to privatize Social Security, and has repeatedly stated he supports privatization. I’m glad to see the Obama Campaign calling him out on it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV9GZUtCgPc

The Tears Continue for Our Once Great Nation

 Congress, Crime, Politics, Presidency, Society, War  Comments Off on The Tears Continue for Our Once Great Nation
Jul 022008
 

The New York Times is reporting that military trainers who came to Guantanamo Bay in December 2002 based an interrogation class on a chart showing various “coercive” techniques for use on prisoners. What the trainers did not reveal, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied an Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain false confessions from American prisoners.

The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and written by Albert D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, who died in 2003. Mr. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners returning from North Korea, some of whom had been filmed by their Chinese interrogators confessing to germ warfare and other atrocities.

Senator Carl Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee said, “What makes this document doubly stunning is that these were techniques to get false confessions. People say we need intelligence, and we do. But we don’t need false intelligence.” (Duhh)

Of course, when has the Bush administration really cared about getting intelligence. They just make up what they need. But picture this, George, Condi, and Dick sitting around the Oval Office having coffee laughing and having a good ole time coming up with ways that prisoners can be tortured for their fun and amusement. Who wants to bet me that Dick Cheney has watched videos of some of the “interrogations.” (Maybe even alone at home in the dark doing the dirty.)

How sad we have become, but of course the right-wing will insist that, “It’s not torture…it was when the commies did it to our soldiers, but it’s not now when we do it to Arabs, that’s different.”