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 »

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.

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.

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.”

Vermont Activists Want Bush Arrested

 Constitution, Crime, Places, Politics, Presidency, Society  Comments Off on Vermont Activists Want Bush Arrested
Dec 292007
 

I just may have to move to Vermont. This is what needs to happen in this country. According to a report on CNN:

A group in Brattleboro is petitioning to put an item on a town meeting agenda in March that would make Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney subject to arrest and indictment if they visit the southeastern Vermont community.

“This petition is as radical as the Declaration of Independence, and it draws on that tradition in claiming a universal jurisdiction when governments fail to do what they’re supposed to do,” said Kurt Daims, 54, a retired machinist leading the drive.

Not surprisingly, the Vermont Attorney General thinks it would be “uphill sledding” for such an indictment to be enforceable, but I say why not. An indictment is an indictment. The Republicans themselves claimed that to be the case during the Clinton impeachment, and made all the ruckus about no one being above the law.

Sep 112007
 

I suppose no blogger can let 9/11 pass without a post reflecting on what it all means. Unfortunately, the Bu$hCo Administration has done everything they can to tie the events of this day to Iraq. They have gone so far as to ensure that the Petraeus report is delivered to Congress so as to coincide with the observance of this anniversary.

The attacks of 9/11 were used to justify the invasion of Iraq, and ever since, Bu$h has been using the mantra to strike fear into the hearts of Americans and ensure continued support of his war. He and Dick have incessantly linked the words “al-Qaida” and “Iraq.” In a  recent speech about Iraq, Bush mentioned al-Qaida 95 times. No matter that the insurgents in Iraq are not the same group that attacked the U.S.

We all knew what Petraeus was going to say before he said it. He was going to spend most of his time talking about how great things are in Anbar…again, never mind things were getting better there long before the “surge” started. We need also to remember that progress has been made there only by striking another “deal with the devil,” Saddam’s Fedayeen. Bush arrogantly attempts to play the alpha dog Commander and Chief with his, “we’re kicking ass,” comment.

 Everyone in America who gets any outside input beyond Faux News knows the real situation on the ground in Iraq. Read some of the blogs of the soldiers that are there. So just forget the absurd debate about progress. The questions to be asked are much more basic–Why can’t we bring ourselves to end the debacle, and why did we invade Iraq in the first place?

Congress cannot bring themselves to end the Iraq war because they haven’t yet grown the backbone to question the basic assumptions on which Bu$h’s “War On Terror” is based. To this Administration, 9/11 justifies everything and ends all arguments. As Gary Kamiya wrote at Salon.com:

Bush’s reaction to 9/11 was to declare a “war on terror,” of which the Iraq adventure was said to be the “front line.” The American establishment signed off on this war because of 9/11. To oppose Bush’s “war on terror” was to risk another terror attack and dishonor our dead. The establishment has now turned against the Iraq front, but it has not questioned the “war on terror” itself, or the assumptions on which it is based.

We chose this go-it-alone vigilantism over reason and justice. We responded from our biological instincts –“fight or flight” – we were hit, so we had to hit back. We responded like a drunk in a bar fight, and combined with our preconceived notions about the Arab/Muslim world, we ran up against our prejudices. The problem is we allowed Bu$hCo to convince us that instead of taking vengeance on the people that attacked us, we should attack the guy standing on the corner watching. It’s a male thing. On the school yard its called “bullying,” and for conservatives it appears to be a necessary reaction. Hence their bully-ish name calling of war critics as “wimps, girly-men and appeasers.”          Continue reading »

Apr 212007
 

An excerpt from Iacocca’s new book – read the entire excerpt:

Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.”

Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?

I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged. This is a fight I’m ready and willing to have….

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them-or at least some of us did. But I’ll tell you what we didn’t do. We didn’t agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn’t agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that’s a dictatorship, not a democracy….        Continue reading »

Vermont: Leading the World in Sanity

 Constitution, Legislature, Politics, The Courts, War  Comments Off on Vermont: Leading the World in Sanity
Apr 212007
 

Yes, it would seem that the good people of Vermont probably have the most intelligence. They’ve seen through the bull shit and their state senate voted 16-9 without debate to impeach Bush and Cheney.

The resolution says Bush and Cheney’s actions in the U.S. and abroad, including in Iraq, “raise serious questions of constitutionality, statutory legality, and abuse of the public trust.” Vermont lawmakers earlier voted to demand an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq in another non-binding resolution.

There is at least one weenie in Vermont state government. Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington has kept a similar resolution from reaching the floor in her chamber. She argued that an impeachment resolution would be partisan and divisive and that it would distract Washington from efforts to get the United States out of Iraq, which she says is more important.

Forty towns voted in favor of similar nonbinding impeachment resolutions at their annual town meetings in March. State lawmakers in Wisconsin and Washington have pushed for similar resolutions. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of grassroots movement.

Impeachment Now?

 Congress, Constitution, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on Impeachment Now?
Apr 042007
 

I really have not been clamoring for the impeachment of Dick and George Cheney-Bush. I had held out hope that an opposition party in power in Congress might be able to offset the abuses of power wrought by the current administration. Unfortunately, the total disregard by this administration for the Constitution and systems of shared power and checks and balances has become egregious.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has told the Congress, under oath, that the Constitution does not guarantee the protection of habeas corpus to the citizens of the United States. If he believes this and acts accordingly, Gonzales has violated his oath of office. So too the President and Vice President if they endorse Gonzales’ opinion. Congress must demand that Bush, Cheney and Gonzales repudiate the Attorney General’s pronouncement and reaffirm their oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. If they refuse, then they must be removed from office.

In addition, both Bush and Cheney have added more troops to the Iraqi occupation force, despite the opposition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an accumulating roster of the military, both active and retired, the Iraq Study Group, the American Public, and the Congress. By announcing that nothing, not even an act of Congress, will deter them, the Bush/Cheney team have, in effect, proclaimed themselves dictators (they couch it in terms of a “unitary executive, to which none of the founding documents of this country make reference). If this proclamation is to fall short of an implementation of rule by decree, the Congress must promptly and decisively reinstate its co-equal status with the Bush Administration, and it must send back that message to the White House with an explicit threat of impeachment.

Finally, over the past months it has become apparent that Bush and Cheney might launch an attack on Iran. Most informed observers agree that this would be an act of insanity, that would unite the world against the United States, probably sharply curtail the production and shipment of oil from the Persian Gulf throwing the US and the world into a depression, and just possibly igniting a third World War. This attack might be prevented by an act of Congress refusing to fund such an attack and proclaiming explicitly that the Congress, in accordance with its Constitutional authority, forbids the President to launch an attack against Iran. That act of Congress should state that failure of the President to obey this act would result in impeachment.

There is no need for the Congress to “build a case” against Bush and Cheney. I believed that if Bush and Cheney were to be impeached and convicted by the Senate, investigations would have to take place, with the amassing of evidence, testimony under oath, and extended debate in Congress. Such was the case with Nixon and with Clinton.

However, I have come to realize that the situation today is substantially different. The evidence is public, indisputable, and even, in some cases, freely admitted by Bush and Cheney. As John Dean has pointed out, when Bush announced that he had authorized secret wiretaps in direct violation of the FISA law, he had, in effect, confessed to an impeachable offense. In addition, the use of torture violates the Geneva Conventions, and the launching of an aggressive war against a nation, Iraq, that did not attack or threaten to attack us, constitutes a war crime in violation of the Nuremberg Accords. Both of these treaties have the force of law, and thus their violation merits impeachment. Bush’s “signing statements,” many of which state explicitly a Presidential prerogative to ignore acts of Congress at will, contradict the Constitutional requirement that the President “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Through the FBI, this government, under direction from the White House, has ignored the rule of low in obtaining National Security Letters.

There are many additional “high crimes and misdemeanors” that justify impeachment and conviction, but some of these require investigation and debate. However, those listed above are both indisputable and sufficient. All that remains, then, is the will of Congress to do its duty. While extended debate on all these issues might be desirable under ordinary circumstances, these are not ordinary circumstances. The Bush/Cheney administration has caused enormous damage to the American economy, to its international reputation, and to its Constitutional order.

Why not “impeachment now”? In a carefully articulated essay in The Nation, Professor Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas Law School argues against impeachment, not withstanding his belief that Bush is “quite possibly the worst President in our history.” He raises three essential points:

  • The Constitution provides us with a language to get rid of a criminal President, but it provides us no language, or process, for terminating the tenure of an incompetent one.”
  • There is simply no possibility that Bush will actually be removed from office in the twenty-four months that unfortunately remain to him.”
  • There is a “highly legalistic” question as to “what exactly constitutes ?high crimes and misdemeanors,'” which the Constitution stipulates as grounds for impeachment.

I believe that all three objections can be successfully rebutted. If so, then given the gravity of the crimes and misdemeanors, only partially listed above, the impeachment of Bush and Cheney becomes both feasible and urgent. Continue reading »

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