Sunday, April 27, 2008

They just have to make it close enough to steal

Sure, the media is obsessed with trashing Obama or Clinton, depending on the week or sound byte that can be taken out of context and twisted to insinuate that Democrats hate America or love terrorists or whatever other utter horseshit that they can conjure up to distract from the fact that John McCain is dangerous, or contradictory or just a flat out liar.

But the corporate media as well as McSame himself are just two pieces in a larger puzzle - the one to keep “The Base” happy and wealthy. We can hear lie after hyperbole after projection about how the Democrats are weak or that Hamas wants McCain to lose or that Osama secretly cast his ballot in 2004 for Kerry.

We know that is all nonsense - and that thankfully, many more Americans are waking up to that fact as well. And with a growing number of Americans thinking that the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections were stolen, not to mention the US Attorney purge, the Justice Department’s gaming the system from the inside, illegal redistricting, illegal phone jamming, voter ID laws that serve to suppress likely Democratic voters and FEC Commissioners who have a history of illegal partisan voter suppression, it isn’t like there is ample evidence that republicans steal elections - and that is before you even get to the hanging chads”, questionable SCOTUS decisions and Diebold hacking.

By nearly all accounts, McCain is a horrific candidate and a horrible choice for President or Commander in Chief. His own party thinks he is crazy. The fundamentalist radical clerics who run his party don’t trust him. His voting record against the troops and veterans is astonishing. I could go on and on - of course, there is this picture, which says it all about McCain’s priorities during Hurricane Katrina:


Even in a country that has as many racist and sexist idiots as this one, Obama or Clinton should kick the crap out of McCain in November, and his lack of inspiration down ticket should result in larger than normal gains for Democrats in Congress, even with the lack of a spine or complicity by too many in the current Congressional Majority. But frankly, none of that matters much if the truth about McCain gets repeated to enough people so that it won’t even be as close as it should be come November.

We know that all McSame has to do is grill up some ribs and the corporate media will treat him with kid gloves.. It will cover up the fact that he either doesn’t know the difference between al Qaeda Sunnis and Iran’s Shiites, or that he is lying about it. It will excuse the hate filled racist or bigoted remarks from those whose endorsement he chased. It will gloss over his very real ties to Charles Keating, while harping on some nonexistant tie between Obama and Rezko, or the nonstory that Whitewater should have been all along. It will talk incessantly about what Michelle Obama or Bill Clinton said while ignoring Cindy McCain’s stealing painkillers from a veterans charity. It will harp on Clinton’s tax return or Obama’s charitable contributions while allowing Cindy McCain to hide her fortune that is funding John’s entire political career.

Oh yeah, very few people actually like John McCain, want to vote for him or want to see him as President.

He is just the latest cog in the republican party corporate money war upward distribution of wealth machine and he must be stopped. He must continuously be exposed for the sham that he is. He must be exposed for the neoconservatives and lobbyists he surrounds himself with and the religious extremists who he panders to. His comments about not knowing much about the economy, about staying in Iraq for 100 years, for “bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran”.

He can’t get close enough to Obama or Clinton by November - he is so much worse than either of them on so many levels that a close race shouldn’t even be a consideration (even with each candidate’s flaws).

Now is the time to start hitting him hard, and consistently.

Forcefully and repeatedly.

There is no reason to wait - primary or no primary. Even after the Democrats get a nominee, the media won’t do nearly the job they should do.

The longer we wait, the closer the race will be. And we can’t let it get close enough that they can steal it for a 4th time in 8 years, and the third straight Presidential race.

$100+ BILLION giveaway to the oil, credit card and retail industries

Let’s just call this colossally shortsighted and ill-advised “rebate program” what it is - a giveaway of money that this government doesn’t have to the oil companies, the credit card companies and the retail industry.

We the People - at least those whose income levels are in the range where they are low enough to receive the rebates but most likely too low to be able to do anything meaningful with the rebates - are merely the intermediary between this corporate welfare program and the true intended recipients.

For starters, this so-called “stimulus program” does nothing to address the major underlying problems and issues that this wind-sucking economy is resulting from. Healthcare costs, extraordinarily high credit card interest rates, rising food, gas and other prices, decrease in real wages, negative savings rates over the past few years and tens of thousands of job cuts are just some of the many issues that this failing economy is based on, yet nothing in these areas are even remotely addressed by a $1,200 (if you are lucky) rebate check. Even if a family is eligible for the full $1,200 rebate, how many of the families will be able to use it to better their overall financial situation?

Just take a look at some of the numbers that were recently put together by the Center for American Progress (here are just some of the “lowlights” - emphasis mine):

Job losses mount. The already weak labor market has taken a turn for the worse. Employment declined by 80,000 jobs in March 2008—the largest loss since March 2003. Over the past three months, the economy lost 232,000 jobs. Average monthly job growth was only 44,700 jobs over the past 12 months, compared to 138,600 jobs in the previous 12 months, and 236,900 jobs in the 12 months before that.

Wages remain flat. Factoring in inflation, hourly wages were only 2.3% higher and weekly wages were only 1.1% higher in February 2008 than in March 2001.


Family debt hits record highs. Household debt averaged a record 133.7% of disposable income in the fourth quarter of 2007. In the fourth quarter of 2007, families spent 14.3% of their disposable income to service their debt, up from 13.0% in the first quarter of 2001.

The housing crisis deepens. New home sales in February 2008 were 28.9% lower than a year earlier, and existing home sales were 23.8% lower. The median sales price of existing homes was 8.2% lower in February 2008 than a year earlier, and the median sales price of new homes dropped 2.7%. The average monthly supply of homes for the six months ending in October was 9.4 months, the highest since January 1982.


People are paying more for basics. Transportation cost 9.5% more in January 2008 than a year earlier, college tuition was up by 6.2%, fuel and utilities by 5.6%, medical care by 4.5%, and food by 4.6%. Since March 2001, food prices rose by 21.6%, fuels and utilities by 36.3%, medical care by 34.1%, transportation by 26.1%, and college tuition by 63.5%.

So, when these checks come - where do you think they are going to go? Well, the sagging retail industry is already salivating:
[r]etailers worried about a consumer slowdown are already planning several ways for you to spend that windfall in their stores.


"We want to get people excited about spending this spring and summer," said Lowe's spokeswoman Chris Ahearn, adding that the retailer was considering allowing customers to cash their rebate checks in Lowe's stores.


...Penney CEO Mike Ullman recently told analysts that the retailer would "obviously compete vigorously" for the stimulus money.

"It couldn't happen at a better time for [us] because it sounds like the checks will go out over a 10-week period, beginning in late May, which leads right into back to school [season] for us," Ullman said.

Lovely - the economy is in horrible shape, so Americans couldn’t spend money on as much crap as the retailers were peddling during the holiday season, so instead of helping the consumers and Americans, why not just gear this so that the retailers can scoop up some of the money to prop up their bottom line over the short term. Screw the American family over the long term - there are toys and the latest fashions to be had.

And with oil at record high prices, and with gas predicted to be around $4 per gallon (if it isn’t already), oil companies that had record profits last year (including Exxon, which made $1,300 PER SECOND IN 2007), they certainly need the money more than American families who can barely afford their mortgage or rental payments, let alone food, medicine or other basic necessities.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post decrying the farce that these rebate checks would be. And since then, there was a billions-dollar bailout of a private financial institution, while taxpayers were left holding the bag for their troubles, there was a huge increase in oil and gas prices, a big decline in jobs (an increase in job cuts), a huge spike in rice and wheat prices - further driving up the price of food and a further weakening of the dollar and economy in general.

But instead of dealing with the underlying issues facing American families - they get a token amount of money that is not enough to make more than a couple of mortgage or rent payments (if that), a couple of doctor visits, one or two past due credit card bills or to cover a couple more tanks of gas so that they can get to work, where they earn less in real wages than in many years - essentially giving it all back to those who are causing the economic failure in the first place.

The only part of the economy that will be “stimulated” is the part that needs it least, and those who need it most get to hold onto the check just long enough to pass it along to private corporate interests.

Because they need the $100 billion more than We the People (at least those who are eligible for it, but that is another issue altogether) - or more than an actual investment in this economy or infrastructure that will have long term effects.

Listen to the man who will beat Virgil Goode (VA-5)

Some of you may be familiar with former Democrat-turned republican Congressman Virgil Goode for his “walking tour” pork project for a town less than one square mile. Others may remember Goode’s comments towards Muslims and directed at Rep. Keith Ellison how he should not be allowed to be sworn in on a Koran, or how he told a constituent that he would have Ellison deported.

However, you may not know about his challenger - Tom Perriello, who is an excellent candidate in his own right, let alone who his opponent is. And you can hear Dante Atkins (hekebolos) and I interview Tom today at 3:30 PM Eastern on our BlogTalkRadio show.

So why is Tom Perriello so right for Congress? Well, in addition to the fact that Virginia is most certainly a “trending purple” state, Tom has already raised around $600,000 for the race (but he can use all the money he can get).

But even though money is unfortunately a driving force (until public financing of elections), there are many other reasons why we should be supporting his run. For starters, there is his strong faith leading to his history of community service and experiences – even at his current age of 33:

Tom Perriello has been to some of the worst hellholes on earth: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur. "I was part of a team trying to force [Liberian dictator] Charles Taylor to leave office without firing a shot," explains Perriello of his Liberian stint.


Perriello calls himself a "justice entrepreneur," and says he "looks at political solutions to military conflicts." He's helped found a nonprofit that stresses faith-based solutions to children's health care, and supports a higher minimum wage, environmental stewardship, and responsible solutions in Iraq.

The fact that Tom not only wears his faith on his sleeve, but actually backs it up with actions like his nonprofit organization that is looking to solve the issues facing the nation - instead of Goode and many others who use their “faith” as a hammer to slam over the heads of anyone whose religion is different or who doesn’t agree with them.

On the issues, Tom is just as strong. He is one of 51 House Candidates to endorse the Responsible Plan” (one of the original endorsees as well), which outlines a way out of the mess in Iraq. Economic fairness, healthcare, energy independence and national security are his main issues, including the following:

Economic Fairness - Tom will fight to ensure that all hard-working Americans are guaranteed a living wage and secure retirement. Parents should have time to spend with their families instead of having to work multiple jobs just to put food on the table. Tom will end the practice of giving tax breaks to companies that take American jobs overseas and will make sure that corporations and CEOs are held accountable for their actions.

Healthcare - Every American deserves access to a doctor, and none of our elderly should ever have to face the soul-crushing choice of whether to buy medicine for a spouse or put food on the table. Furthermore, our employers should not be burdened with healthcare costs that put them at a disadvantage to their competitors in other countries.

Education and Job Training - There is no higher calling for government than to help its people reach their God-given potential, and there are few better ways to do that than to ensure that all our children receive a quality education. We must support our local teachers and help recruit and retain new ones. We must develop better ways of evaluating our schools to encourage a focus on knowledge and learning. Educational opportunities must begin earlier and continue later in life by prioritizing a pre-K year, affordable and accessible college education and vocational training, and the lifelong skills training required to ensure American workers remain competitive in the global economy.

National Security - Americans are less safe today than on September 12th because of the decisions made by this Administration and many in Congress. Tom has spent much of his career fighting for justice-based security solutions in Western Africa, Darfur, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and he will apply the expertise he gained by focusing on results instead of rhetoric in Congress.

Oil Independence - Our national security, our climate, and our economic competitiveness demand that we achieve independence from fossil fuels during this generation. Our leaders have lacked the courage to do what is necessary to make our country safe and to encourage the “dot-com” boom of the next generation—alternative energy and efficiency technologies. Tom will ensure that the farmers, businesses, and consumers of the 5th District have the tools and the incentives to lead America through this challenge.

Please stop by Tom's website, and if you live in the area, this is a great race to get involved with. And of course, if you have some spare change to give to a very worthy candidate, please stop by Tom's ActBlue page and donate to a very worthy cause.


And if you're interested in hearing other interviews with great progressive candidates, click on the links below!

We hope you have the chance to listen live; if not, we will be posting the interview at Heading Left, which is BlogTalkRadio’s official website for progressive internet radio and podcasts.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Good riddance to these Iraqi “insurgents, militants and extremists”

For those of you who aren’t following the “goings on” in Iraq, well, things have been pretty messed up. The whole “go git al Sadr” thing didn’t work out too well, as over 1,000 of the Iraqi forces just gave up that fight. The Green Zone is being pelted on a regular basis now, and each week brings more death and destruction than the prior one.

Even with this, one of the major unreported items is that there has been a tremendous increase in air strikes in Iraq over the years, and 2007 saw an increase in air strikes from four per week to around four per day.

Yet, we either hear nothing about this at all, and even less about the massive number of casualties that these attacks cause. Hell, we barely hear about the IEDs or the suicide bombings that happen in all areas of Iraq on a nearly daily basis, and those kill our troops and Iraqi forces - so why would we hear about bombings that “only” kill Iraqis - let alone innocent Iraqis, including women, children, judges, policemen and the elderly.

A must-read post at TomDispatch hits on this very issue as well, further supporting the fact that nobody making any decisions has any clue whatsoever as to what is the end game in Iraq other than more of the same crap.

While we see headlines like Fighting in Baghdad as Sadr aide killed, if you look right below the surface, you will see:

Heavy gunfire erupted at around 11:00 p.m. (10 p.m. British time) in several parts of the slum, an east Baghdad stronghold of Sadr's followers and home to 2 million people.

A Reuters correspondent said U.S. helicopters and jets were swooping overhead and several of the aircraft fired missiles. The number of casualties was not immediately known.

Does it really matter how many casualties there are in an area where 2 million people live? Are all of these 2 million people insurgents or “Sadr aides”? Enough to justify this:
At the same time International Medical Corps is responding to frequent emergencies in the country, most recently, to people in Baghdad's Sadr City who have been caught in fierce fighting between local militias and U.S.-supported Iraqi troops.

Since last week, International Medical Corps staff has been assisting the most vulnerable families in Sadr City. IMC is distributing one month's worth of food to poor families - including rice, cooking oil, sugar, beans, and flour - as well as potable water and essential medical supplies. With food supplies initially located within the midst of fierce fighting around Jamila Market and access restricted for all civilian vehicles, International Medical Corps staff improvised a network of wheelbarrows to transport the goods from the stores.

In anticipation of increasing scarcity of essential supplies, International Medical Corps has strategically pre-positioned 1,500 food packages and has two additional emergency medical supply distributions planned for hospitals in Sadr City.

But we killed a whole lot of insurgents, right? Just like always....

Like This incident, reported recently in the LA Times:

Saad Mohammed was among those being buried Monday. A friend, Wisam Kadhim, said Mohammed was mortally wounded in a U.S. airstrike Sunday and had left behind a wife and two children.

"His family couldn't make a funeral for him, so we, his friends, made a small funeral," Kadhim said. Few people showed up, he said, because they feared being caught in crossfire.

But don’t worry about that, because:
A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Steven Stover, rejected Iraqi allegations that U.S. airstrikes and gunfire have killed mainly civilians.

"There might be some civilians that are getting caught, but for the most part, we're killing the bad guys.

Or this incident from last month, where I can hear Bush smirking and saying, “well, let’s just say that justice was served”:
A U.S. airstrike killed five Iraqi civilians including a judge in the northern town of Tikrit on Wednesday, Iraqi police said.


Iraqi police said five civilians were killed and 10 wounded in the air strike. The dead included Munaf Mehdi, a judge in the town.

I bet he was an activist judge.

And after a while, there’s just a blending of one:

a US military air strike on insurgent targets in a southern Iraqi city killed ten civilians


A hospital source said the dead included six children under the age of 12. He put the number of wounded at 30.

Into another:
the attack killed three civilians, including a woman, and wounded six others, all from one family.

Into yet another (from today):
The US military has killed 15...Iraqis in air raids and attacks in eastern neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

The casualties included three policemen and three civilians that were killed in clashes in Sadr City.


While the US claims that the attacks target militiamen holed up in Sadr City and other neighborhoods of Baghdad, witnesses told Press TV that US troops have been lunching heavy attacks on the densely populated slum city and "indiscriminately killing" civilians.

The numbers obscure the lives ruined and ended - and for what reason? To kill “insurgents”? What the hell should we care if they want us out of their own country (rhetorical question)? What is the goal? What happens if we stop al Sadr’s militia? And what is it our place to be doing that anyway, especially considering BOTH Saddam and al Qaeda are Sunni, and al Sadr is Shiite?

If an airstrike ever hit somebody of real “high value”, you can bet it would be trumpeted by the war mongers and Keyboard Kommandos (hell, they do that anyway). Yet, with a fivefold increase in the tonnage of ordinance dropped from 2006 through 2007, we only are “treated” to precision attacks like this one:

“In a raid in May 2007 on Sadr City, in eastern Baghdad,” the report notes, “American forces called in an air strike on nine cars that were seen positioning themselves to ambush the American and Iraqi troops on the raid . . . and five people suspected of being ‘terrorists’ . . . were killed in the attack. But an Interior Ministry official and residents of Sadr City said the cars were parked in a line of vehicles waiting at a gas station.”

Because, you know, once those cars fill up their gas tanks, the drivers can use them as a weapon of mass destruction, so we can’t take any chances.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Impeachment is the only way they don’t get away with torture

United States Constitution, Article 2, Section 2: The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Emphasis mine.

Impeachment at this juncture and based on the revelations over , regardless of the arguments against it, is a moral imperative. Bush will no doubt pardon anyone that has any connection to any wrongdoings, and even though Obama and Clinton talk about investigating the crimes committed in this administration, I think we all probably know how difficult it will be to get anything meaningful done in that respect, although if either of them do, I will be so very pleasantly surprised.

That being said, the arguments of “not enough time” or “not enough votes” all melt away when compared to the implications and consequences of ignoring and tacitly approving of torture. Torture is the most heinous and sadistic of acts that I can possibly think of. I would be willing to be there are millions, nay, tens of millions of Americans who agree with me. Yet, for us tens of millions, we will be known as “those people who torture”.

And it will not be forgotten, nor will anybody be forgiven (not to mention our troops being at greater risk for being tortured if captured).

Illegal wiretapping, while a violation of the Constitution and most certainly an impeachable offense, is not a crime against humanity. Outing an entire covert network of nuclear proliferation tracking, certainly more impeachable than lying about a blowjob, was never something that most people could understand how directly they were impacted by that. Ignoring subpoenas, destroying evidence of torture, lying to Congress and misleading the American people wasn’t something that apparently caught on in terms of anyone in Congress caring enough to pursue.

But torture is different.

Torture is subhuman. Torture is clearly illegal. Torture is a stain on the entire country. It is never “for noble causes”. It is never “right”, it is never “just” and it is never acceptable on any legal or moral level whatsoever.

Criminals associated with the administration were pardoned and the country “moved ahead” in a number of prior republican administrations. And while some of these criminals did commit some heinous crimes, I don’t believe that top administration officials - including the President - had such a hand in directing, approving and planning the torture of other humans - no matter what those humans were suspected of doing (or merely being associated with).

And this is the difference. Whether we approve of Bush and his administration or not, he does represent this country. As does/did Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Powell and Ashcroft. They are the face of “America’s bullying foreign policy”.

And they have associated this country with being torturers.

There is only one remedy that will ensure that the perpetrators will not get away with it. And to make any argument against this remedy ignores the consequence of “America tortures” will have on us for many years to come. It can be used as an excuse for attacks on our troops. It can be used as an excuse to attack US interests around the world. It can be used as an excuse to attack us here in America. It can be used as a reason to not ever take us seriously again.

What happens now is what will define us as a nation.


Please join the ACLU in demanding a special prosecutor to investigate the role that was played by the highest officials in the Bush administration - including Bush himself in the acts described above.

And please spread the word - even if the corporate media doesn’t think that this is important enough - it is how we act now with respect to accountability that will determine who we are as a country. It has been almost two weeks since this story broke and there is still a near complete blackout on this story.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

...wherein "they" allow al Qaeda to attack us. Again.

For those who didn’t see dday’s excellent diary about the very unimportant Government Accountability Office report out today, well, it is a doozy.

The title itself should bring back memories of the infamous August 2001 PDB titled “bin Laden determined to strike inside the US”, as this one is titled The United States Lacks Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas”.

The first paragraph lays it all out with the following reiteration of what we have known for quite some time already:

GAO found broad agreement, as documented in the National Intelligence Estimate, State and embassy documents, as well as Defense officials in Pakistan, that al Qaeda had regenerated its ability to attack the United States and had succeeded in establishing a safe haven in Pakistan’s FATA.

This, on top of the admission by Ambassador Ryan Crocker that al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is the threat that we really should be paying attention to, and you wonder whether we will get another “nobody could have imagined” moment if and when al Qaeda attacks again.

And, as laid out in the GAO report (and covered nicely by Democracy Arsenal),

al Qaeda is now using the Pakistani safe haven to put the last element necessary to launch another attack against America into place, including the identification, training, and positioning of Western operatives for an attack. It stated that al Qaeda is most likely using the FATA to plot terrorist attacks against political, economic, and infrastructure targets in America “designed to produce mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the population."

Of course, Pakistan is our bestest friend (being that we have given them around $10 billion over the past few years) and is most certainly in the “with us” category. Hell, I’ll take $10 billion to not capture bin Laden and do absolutely nothing to stop terrorism - but of course, I would have to incorporate as a subsidiary of Halliburton in order to do so.

But when you talk about fighting terrorism while saying that capturing the man who is responsible for attacking the United States isn’t all that important or a good use of resources, what do you expect? And when you spend more time figuring out just how much to torture detainees, you will certainly miss the threat that is explicitly laid out for you when you are only the National fucking Security Advisor.

We know that we are dealing with a bunch of cowards. Not just those who attacked us, but those who allowed all of the warning signs to be ignored with little more than a “you’ve covered your ass now” and then allowed bin Laden to escape when he was cornered, and then diverted resources from Afghanistan to unnecessarily invade another country that had no nuclear weapons (as that is the only battle that is consistently picked by the neocons) and nothing to do with al Qaeda or the attacks.

Countless lives, countless billions of dollars, countless “chest thumping moments” - all to get us exactly to the point where we are at greater risk for being attacked then almost any time since 9/11.

What does John W. McSame have to say about this? Well, judging by how he reacted to Obama’s comments about actually going after al Qaeda in Pakistan, it would seem that McCain is also a coward who loves the terrorists, because after all, if you harbor terrorists, you will be held to account:

McCain - Will the next President have the experience, the judgment experience informs, and the strength of purpose to respond to each of these developments in ways that strengthen our security and advance the global progress of our ideals? Or will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested invading our ally, Pakistan...

Forgetting the fact that Obama didn’t suggest invading Pakistan, it is clear that McCain views a country that harbors terrorists - specifically the ones who attacked us as opposed to “terrorists” who have little to no interest in attacking the United States - as our ally.

Can we afford a President that coddles countries who coddle terrorists? What will happen if/when what the GAO report says comes to fruition?

What happens if they let al Qaeda attack us again?

We can't heal until we face our demons

The United States of America tortures people.

Get used to that. It is no secret - it isn’t even up for debate. There is not one person that has even the cursory knowledge of what was discussed, what was authorized, what was justified or the acts that were carried out on detainees by people representing the United States of America.

This is not a “time for healing”. Not yet.

This is the time of reckoning for the people and future of America - an accountability moment. The corporate media here in the US, not surprisingly, is ignoring this story but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t widely reported or known around the world. This isn’t new, although the revelations about the entire uppermost level of the Bush administration spent hours discussing sadistic acts that they could do via proxy to others “in the name of freedom” is new.

This can not pass - this can not fall into the waste heap of all of the dozens, nay, scores of scandals, crimes or “just” unethical acts taken by these torturing, lying, thieving, murderous criminals since stealing the 2000 election. This can not be swept under the rug. It can not and will not be forgotten. After all, civilized countries do not torture people, no matter what.

We can’t just move forward and put this bad period behind us. We need to understand how we got to this point, how we allowed this to be done in our names, and why those who were supposed to be “the opposition” did not object when briefed, did not investigate in any meaningful manner and are not screaming from the rooftops at the most recent discovery.

Torture is not something that will be excused - not for any reason. There needs to be justice. There needs to be a recognition of how far we have sunk - how a callous disregard for law and a complete and utter lack of any humanity by those who occupy the top offices in the United States Government has resulted in a sanctioned program that was specifically designed to do nothing other than torture people.

The current Congress is at a crossroads - not that it hasn’t been on other issues, but this is a defining moment in our country’s history. With all of the other illegal acts where no meaningful action was taken (other than continuously funding the disaster in Iraq, which is part of the same thing), ignoring the issue of torture specifically discussed in great detail by Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Powell, Tenet and Bush himself is one that will show the world what kind of country the United States of America is.

The next President will have to deal with the fallout of this as well. Revelations that the President and his top officials discussed torture is what emboldens terrorists. This is what puts our troops at risk, as they will more likely be tortured now if captured. That will not go away.

Both Clinton and Obama have indicated that they will investigate the Bush administration crimes. Whether they will, with what zeal they will and which crimes they will investigate remains to be seen - one of them has to beat McSame first. But the issue of torture is one that should carry no excuses, no leniency, no tolerance.

This is not a partisan issue. It is an American issue. It is what will define us and what our role is in the global community. It will define us here at home - right now, torture is carried out in our name, and we are finding out how high up in our government this goes.

If we do not confront this, it will define us. If we attempt to “let this pass”, it will come back to haunt us for generations. If we don’t step up, we will forever be “one of those countries that tortures”.

It is up to us to make sure that something is done about it, since we are not getting much help from those whose job it is to do something about it.


Please join the ACLU in demanding a special prosecutor to investigate the role that was played by the highest officials in the Bush administration - including Bush himself in the acts described above.

And please spread the word - even if the corporate media doesn’t think that this is important enough - it is how we act now with respect to accountability that will determine who we are as a country.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

This Is Not Torture

There are some pretty graphic descriptions in here. I put them in to show just what resulted from the discussions and decisions of top administration officials, and how it is a big fucking deal.


Besides the fact that the media here in the United States doesn’t seem to think it is important that Bush, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet (not to mention Gonzales, Yoo, most likely Miers and others) spent way too much time discussing, debating, justifying and approving how much torture is too much torture, it is pretty damn important.

It also matters that it is not being confronted forcefully and with more than just mere “strongly worded letters” amongst this shockingly blanket burying this atrocity that the world now knows runs straight to mister Bush himself. No matter how many times the euphemistic “enhanced interrogation techniques” is used by the same people who applaud a fictional “badass” like Jack Bauer for doing “whatever it takes” to stop that ticking time bomb from going off.

As if there is any such thing as torturing someone in the most benevolent of ways, only because the information you would get right fucking now would stop that nuke from going off inside the United States at the last minute.

Even though that is impossible, because we are fighting them over there so we don’t fight them over here. Or something like that.

But just so we all know just what is legal - what is justified because John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush himself and a number of others say it is - even though not one piece of actionable intelligence has been reported, not one attack been thwarted and not one conviction been won at all - it is imperative that this not ever be forgotten until those who are responsible for these actions and deaths be held accountable and, in the words of Bush - be brought to justice.

Here are a couple of things that are most certainly not torture, because we all know that the United States does not torture:

“I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum"


“a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.”

I wonder how many terrorists were stopped from attacking us with those “enhanced techniques”.

According to the ACLU (who, by the way is spearheading an effort to appoint a special prosecutor), there were the following murders during interrogations:

A 27-year-old Iraqi male died while being interrogated by Navy Seals on April 5, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq. During his confinement he was hooded, flex-cuffed, sleep deprived and subjected to hot and cold environmental conditions, including the use of cold water on his body and hood. The exact cause of death was ""undetermined"" although the autopsy stated that hypothermia may have contributed to his death. Notes say he ""struggled/ interrogated/ died sleeping."" Some facts relating to this case have been previously reported. (In April 2003, Secretary Rumsfeld authorized the use of ""environmental manipulation"" as an interrogation technique in Guantánamo Bay. In September 2003, Lt. Gen. Sanchez also authorized this technique for use in Iraq. Although Lt. Gen. Sanchez later rescinded the September 2003 techniques, he authorized ""changes in environmental quality"" in October 2003.)


An Iraqi detainee (also described as a white male) died on January 9, 2004, in Al Asad, Iraq, while being interrogated by ""OGA."" He was standing, shackled to the top of a door frame with a gag in his mouth at the time he died. The cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries. Notes summarizing the autopsies record the circumstances of death as ""Q by OGA, gagged in standing restraint."" (Facts in the autopsy report appear to match the previously reported case of Abdul Jaleel.)


A detainee was smothered to death during an interrogation by Military Intelligence on November 26, 2003, in Al Qaim, Iraq. A previously released autopsy report, that appears to be of General Mowhoush, lists ""asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression"" as the cause of death and cites bruises from the impact with a blunt object. New documents specifically record the circumstances of death as ""Q by MI, died during interrogation.""


An Afghan civilian died from ""multiple blunt force injuries to head, torso and extremities"" on November 6, 2003, at a Forward Operating Base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Facts in the autopsy report appear to match the previously reported case of Abdul Wahid.)


A 52-year-old male Iraqi was strangled to death at the Whitehorse detainment facility on June 6, 2003, in Nasiriyah, Iraq. His autopsy also revealed bone and rib fractures, and multiple bruises on his body. (Facts in the autopsy report appear to match the previously reported case of Nagm Sadoon Hatab.)

But if you don’t trust a traitorous hippie liberal organization like the ACLU, maybe the solider’s own accounts will show what was approved by Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and others. Per testimony at Human Rights Watch, here are some of the productive and very legal fruits of these internal “National Security Council” meetings:
He was stripped naked, put in the mud and sprayed with the hose, with very cold hoses, in February. At night it was very cold. They sprayed the cold hose and he was completely naked in the mud, you know, and everything. Then he was taken out of the mud and put next to an air conditioner. It was extremely cold, freezing, and he was put back in the mud and sprayed.

This happened all night. Everybody knew about it. People walked in, the sergeant major and so forth, everybody knew what was going on, and I was just one of them, kind of walking back and forth seeing that this is how they do things.

Or this:

Standard procedure, when I was there, you (i.e., the detainees) had twenty-four hour inside the Conex (container) . . . you’re blind-folded, you’re zip-stripped, your hands are behind your back; your feet usually weren’t, unless there was a particularly volatile prisoner—somebody who’d caused a lot of trouble, they’d hitch the feet as well. You were there, twenty-four hours: no sleep, no food, no water.

The temperatures inside the container, Nick said, were extreme:

Early on, when I first got there, it only got up to about 115, but by July and August, we were regularly between 135 and 145 (Fahrenheit). (Inside the container) it was really extremely hot.

Or this:
Nick told Human Rights Watch what he saw when the detainee was brought into the interrogation building:

He wouldn’t say anything, and they kept screaming at him and screaming at him. And they picked him up and threw him against the wall—and it’s a concrete wall. They threw him up against the wall, they punched him in the neck, punched him in the stomach—you know, gut shot—they threw him down. (At one point,) they actually threw him outside—they had two guys (other detainees) outside watching—threw him outside the building, just threw him outside like that. And then they picked him up, dragged him back, pulling him by the hair and stuff. . . . They hold his arms like this (out behind his back) and then beat him down—enough so they could break it, to give you a little bit of the pain. Same with the kneecaps: kicked him in the kneecaps, you know, really hard, with those boots—combat boots.

That last case - an Iranian businessman (or small time electronics smuggler) who didn’t speak Arabic, therefore earning him a bigger beating.

All of those are apparently not only legal, but necessary so as to ensure that we are safer. And just for consistency, it isn’t just Iraq where these very legal things are being done to spread freedom and stop terrorists are taking place. Unless there are consequences - unless there is accountability, then what happened to this individual in Afghanistan will have been done in the name of The United States of America:

(In western Afghanistan:) The Americans blindfolded us and, worst of all, they made us completely naked and made us to sit in a cold room and we were shivering and trembling because of the cold air. . . . (Describing transport to Kandahar:) I was naked and I had no clothes at all when I was moved . . . . (Upon arrival at airbase in western Afghanistan:) I was pulled out of the car and moved towards an airplane. At the airport, someone who was pretty strong held my neck under his arm and pressed it hard and meanwhile kept punching me hard on my face and one punch hit me hard on my mouth and two front teeth of my upper jaw fell out, which you can see now(interviewee is missing both teeth).

(In Kandahar:) They behaved very rude with me after the plane landed in Kandahar. It was cold and they threw us on the desert for more than an hour. Then some army men came and took us inside. Getting us inside the room there were some guards ready, and they were beating us mercilessly, without any reason. They were kicking and punching us. Mostly they were beating us on our backs. Later (they) gave me clothes to put on. They shaved our hair and our beards and mustaches. After that they took me for an interrogation and before asking any questions they started beating me. One person picked me up high over his head and threw me onto a desk and made me lie there. And then two or three other persons hit me with their knees on my back and shoulders. . . . The next day I was taken for interrogation. . . .

(On the plane to Kandahar:) We were shackled and our eyes were covered so that we could not see anything. . . . (A)ll the handcuffed prisoners were forced to sit with their legs stretched and hands behind them and the whole body bent onto the legs all the way. (Demonstrates by kneeling and sitting on top of his calves and feet, with torso bent down over the knees.)

It was very difficult to remain in that position and if we fell to the side or moved, the armed men standing over our heads would beat us mercilessly with their army boots, kicking us in our back and kidneys. We were all beaten, without exception. . . . Our eyes were closed [blindfolded] while we were getting out of the helicopter at the Kandahar airbase. One man pulled me up by my arm and threw me down the stairs, and then made me to lie down on the ground with my face upward. We did not have the right to move, and if we did we were beaten. Other people were beaten. . . When we were in Kandahar, we were not allowed to talk with each other and if we did, we were beaten and we were not allowed to sleep. For instance, if we were sleeping we were waken up or if we were covering our head with our bed cover we were beaten strongly.

These are the “necessary interrogation techniques” that Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Gonzales, Yoo and many many others participated in. All of these people are guilty of war crimes. All of these people are guilty of much more heinous crimes against humanity.


Please join the ACLU in demanding a special prosecutor to investigate the role that was played by the highest officials in the Bush administration - including Bush himself in the acts described above.

And please spread the word - even if the corporate media doesn’t think that this is important enough - it is how we act now with respect to accountability that will determine who we are as a country.

Only criminal indictments can save this country

I know all the arguments against impeachment. It’s too late. The process is cheapened. “We can’t win”. Whatever else. Blah. Blah. Blah.

But at this point, all of that is moot - even though technically a Democratic president, a Democratic Attorney General, and a larger Democratic Congress can step up and at least mark some of the criminals that infested this Executive Branch over the past 8 years tagged with the stain of their heinous behaviors.

At this point, “we” have already lost in the court of public opinion. “We” most certainly do torture. “We” certainly knew that a hurricane was about to devastate an entire region of the country. “We” manufacture evidence to invade other countries on false pretenses. “We” are arrogant, belligerent and stubborn.

But there is a difference between “we” and “they”. At this point, “they” have already lost even more in the court of public opinion. “They” knew. “They” outed a CIA operative and an entire network of covert operations. “They” tried to find a justification for their sadistic tendencies and be able to torture others. And then “they” destroyed the evidence.

The list of known criminal activity is really endless. Illegal spying. Criminal negligence in so many areas - Katrina, 9/11 are the two most obvious. Ignoring subpoenas. Stealing not one, not two but three elections (Georgia 2002, anyone?). Attorneys General lying to Congress. Attorneys General tacitly approving of torture. “Fixing the facts around the policy”. Illegally declassifying information. Obstructing justice with respect to the Plame investigation. Obstructing justice with the destroyed emails. Obstructing justice with the destroyed CIA torture tapes.

And that is merely the tip of the iceberg.

If we were to expand this to things that are so morally reprehensible, even a “not guilty” verdict could not even begin to negate the absolute necessity of holding criminals accountable for their criminal activity. It is morally imperative if this democracy (little and big “d”) is to survive. It is mandatory if our Constitution is to have any further meaning. It is a required step in order for us to have any semblance of credibility or voice, or even to participate in world affairs.

One’s world standing, coupled with militaristic leaders and an aggressive foreign policy are a toxic mix. Nobody survives - at least not in the same shape and with the same standing as they were before such actions. The Roman Empire, the Soviet Union, Germany, even Saddam in 1991 are all good examples. And there are many, many others. To think that the United States - with its arrogant, hypocritical, belligerent and reckless foreign policy (both historically and more importantly, recently) could not befall the same fate is both arrogant and foolish. In fact, it is already happening on the global economic scale, and it is bankrupting this country at home.

If the illegal behavior is not confronted in a meaningful way, then that only shows approval and complicity. There is no “moral standing” when the President of the United States admits that he approved of torture - especially when he is not held accountable. There is no “moral standing” when private contractors murder innocent Iraqis and threaten our own Armed Forces - especially when it is known throughout the world and nothing is done to hold anyone accountable. There is no “moral standing” when hundreds of thousands of innocent people are displaced, left with broken lives and are murdered based on lies. There is no “moral standing” when bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban are allowed to reconstitute, strengthen and attack our troops and allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan - especially when we talk about fighting terrorism while we ignore it.

“They” did all of this. Willfully. Purposely. For their own personal gain, or own sick twisted jollies. “They” did it all in our names. “They” even did it in not one (Reagan), not two (HW Bush) not three (Ford) but in four prior administrations (Nixon). “Their” actions over the past 40 years, and especially the past 8, are a reflection on this country’s standing in the world. The fact that we are in such economic peril makes it even worse.

And everybody disapproves of it. What is the approval rating, 20%? This country finds their actions despicable. The entire world finds their actions despicable. The entire world knows they committed crimes - war crimes, lying to the world community, illegal use of chemical weapons, murdering innocent people. Most of this country knows that torture is illegal. Most of this country knows that illegal spying is, well, illegal. Most of this country knows that obstructing justice, destroying evidence and stealing elections is illegal. And most of this country (I still hope) thinks that this type of behavior should not be ignored.

It is a long road back to respectability - both here in the US in terms of the “rule of law” and around the world in the eyes of the global community. There is too much at stake to be held in such low regard. There is too much at stake to be pushed aside. And there is too much at stake to put ourselves at such a disadvantage when it comes to foreign relations.

The world knows that top level “leaders” of this country broke numerous laws - some very heinous laws, and committed atrocities on many levels. And that they admitted to not only doing so, but making a premeditated decision to do so. We will never be taken seriously and will be at a substantial disadvantage if we don’t repair our image and hold criminals accountable.

Hell, let Attorney General John Edwards appoint one of the US attorneys that was fired as a special prosecutor. A “not guilty” verdict will not be looked at as vindication. The process will be looked at as a spotlight on the criminal behaviors that have permeated this Government over the past few years. It will show that we still care about what is right and what is wrong.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"Something approaching normal" - another McCain Moment

Now granted, over the past few weeks, things at Chez Clammy have been far from “normal”. Tax season, wife about to give birth, new baby, lack of sleep, frequent trips to the store for stuff I didn’t even know existed a few days ago and a number of other things turned upside down make me think about what “approaching normal” would be here. Maybe not ordering take out as much, maybe having the baby sleep through the night, maybe a regular work schedule....

So I did some double checking when I read about the latest McCain Moment when he said that things in Iraq over the past year brought a glimmer of “something approaching normal”, just to make sure that I haven’t been so far out of the loop.

But maybe for someone that wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years, and someone who obviously thinks it is normal to call his wife (and financier) “the ‘c’ word” thinks it is normal to be surrounded by bombings, attacks, IEDs, civil war, thousands of dead, tens of thousands wounded, a country that has gotten progressively worse in all respects and more humanitarian crises than one can count is “approaching normal”.

Is it “approaching normal” when Army Vice Chief of Staff Richard Cody says that

Overall, our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it. If unaddressed, this lack of balance poses a significant risk to the all-volunteer force and degrades the Army’s ability to make a timely response to other contingencies.

Is it “approaching normal” when that very same market that you visited one year ago (while over 20 Iraqis were being massacred at a market) isn’t even safe enough to walk near one year later - the same amount of time that McSame said was showing that “approach to normalcy”?

Is a country where there are now an estimated 1 million - 1.3 million orphans and widows “approaching normal”? Especially when this is a result of the “liberation and greeting with flowers” that McCain and the republican Congress enabled? Or maybe the more normal part of this is the fact that they are basically being ignored - just like this administration has done with orphans, widows and displaced Americans after Katrina or whose spouses have been killed or maimed in Iraq?

Or maybe the fact that the United States Institute of Peace has recently reported that the lack of political progress in Iraq is leading to “serious consequences” for US interests around the world:

’the U.S. risks getting bogged down in Iraq for a long time to come, with serious consequences for its interests in other parts of the world,’’ according to a new assessment by the same group of experts who advised the bipartisan blue-ribbon Iraq Study Group (ISG) in 2006.

The assessment, which was released on the eve of a critical Congressional testimony this week by Washington’s ambassador and chief military officer in Iraq, concludes that the decline in violence has resulted in very little progress toward achieving national reconciliation and that gains in security remain ‘’fragile and dependent on the presence of U.S. forces.’’

‘’Political progress is so slow, halting and superficial, and social and political fragmentation so pronounced that the U.S. is no closer to being able to leave Iraq than it was a year ago,’’ according to the report released by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and entitled ‘Iraq After the Surge: Options and Questions’.

‘’Lasting political development could take five to ten years of full, unconditional U.S. commitment to Iraq,’’ it concluded, noting that such a commitment already ‘’carries a massive cost, both human and financial, in addition to the global interests the U.S. is sacrificing to its commitment in Iraq. Even if progress in Iraq continues, the results may not be worth the cost,’’ it warned.

Or maybe it is something on a more basic humanitarian level that is “approaching normal” for Senator “100 Years” - the little fact that there is major fighting in Sadr City, with emergency medical supplies being blocked from coming into the city, added to the severe water shortage:
Throughout the country by 21:30 the GZG authorities admitted to 25 dead and 57 wounded. There is very heavy fighting going on in Sadr city. The Americans have it under siege and are refusing all access to the city. American helicopters have bombed the city repeatedly. American snipers are being deployed on the roof tops. Imam Ali spokesmen say they are now desperately short of medical supplies. The Red Crescent attempts to get emergency medical supplies to the city which we reported yesterday have failed because the Americans will not let them through.

There are reports that the fires caused by the American bombing of the Jameela market are spreading and that there is no water being pumped to the city.

But I guess when you continue to misunderstand the very basics about al Qaeda being Sunni and not Shiite, the term “normal” is well....not quite so normal.