February 8, 2008 archive

I’ll Leave You To Judge {Updated}

This morning on NPR’s Morning Edition they had this report:

Iraq Vets Charged with Murder of Fellow Soldier

A soldier who had survived two tours in Iraq and had been sent home after suffering traumatic brain injury was murdered in December in Colorado Springs near Fort Carson, Colo. Army Spc. Kevin Shields was killed, according to police, by three fellow soldiers who had served with him in Iraq.

Nebraska Court Bans Electric Chair

cross posted from The Dream Antilles


Nebraska’s Electric Chair

I’m cheering and applauding.  Nebraska’s Supreme Court has dragged the state kicking and screaming into the 21st Century by forbidding the state, as a matter of State Constitutional Law, from using the electric chair to kill prisoners sentenced to death.  Because electrocution was the only means of execution in the Nebraska statute, the state has reluctantly now joined the nationwide de facto stay on state executions.

Join me in stir.

Taking pills

There are lots of drugs I’ve found enjoyable and some I would recommend (more on that at a later date..) but I never trusted pills or heroin. I knew pill heads in school. They were just as bad if not worse than junkies. Stealing medication by the bag fulls, offering randomly unnamed pills of various …

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Four at Four

Friday’s news and open thread…

  1. The Los Angeles Times reports Court rejects EPA’s scheme to allow excessive mercury emissions. “A federal appeals court today struck down a market-based effort by the Bush administration to regulate emissions of mercury from coal- and oil-fired power plants, agreeing with critics that the Environmental Protection Agency had violated the Clean Air Act when it established the rule… The EPA had planned to establish a mandatory national cap on mercury emissions and then allow power plants that fail to meet their targets to buy credits from less-polluting plants. Environmentalists have criticized this approach because mercury tends to accumulate near its source, rather than dispersing like other pollutants that have been regulated under so-called cap-and-trade mechanisms.”

  2. Via TPMmuckraker, the Wall Street Journal reports Contractors likely involved in waterboarding. “The CIA’s secret interrogation program has made extensive use of outside contractors, whose role likely included the waterboarding of terrorist suspects, according to testimony yesterday from the CIA director and two other people familiar with the program. Many of the contractors involved aren’t large corporate entities but rather individuals who are often former agency or military officers. However, large corporations also are involved, current and former officials said. Their identities couldn’t be learned… Using nongovernment employees also helped maintain a low profile, they said.” Is your next door neighbor a freelance mercenary torturer for the CIA?

  3. Reuters reports Nebraska Supreme Court rules electric chair unconstitutional.

    The Nebraska Supreme Court struck down the state’s reliance on the electric chair for executions on Friday as “cruel and unusual” punishment, leaving no alternative method in its place.

    “We recognize the temptation to make the prisoner suffer, just as the prisoner made an innocent victim suffer,” the court wrote. “But it is the hallmark of a civilized society that we punish cruelty without practicing it.”

    In its 6-1 ruling, the court said evidence proves that unconsciousness and death are not instantaneous for many prisoners and they could experience intense pain and “agonizing suffering.”

    Nebraska is the only U.S. state that uses the electric chair as its only means of execution, though a few others still allow prisoners to choose it as an alternative to lethal injection.

    Governor Dave Heineman is “appalled” by ruling. “‘I am appalled by (the court’s) decision,’ the governor said in a statement. ‘…the court has asserted itself improperly as a policymaker. Once again, this activist court has ignored its own precedent and the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court to continue its assault on the Nebraska death penalty.'” The Nebraska Republican has a self-described “pro-life administration“.

  4. A mysterious shipwreck has been revealed by winter storms in Oregon. The Oregonian has the story, A ship in the sands of time. “A massive wooden ship that disappeared on the southern Oregon coast decades and decades ago is emerging from a sand dune eroded by wild winter storms. On a remote beach of Coos Bay’s North Spit, the seas are revealing the bow of a mystery ship. Thirty feet of its thick, wooden bow protrudes from the dune. Forty feet wide at its broadest point, the hull sits dug into the dune, pointed toward the sea. Its iron supports are rusted and bent, its deck supports exposed, its portholes deep and square. The ship was built from massive timbers and likely dates to the late 19th or early 20th century… Between 1852 and 1953, 58 ships wrecked in a span of about five miles off Coos Bay”.

A bonus story about the Enchantress is below the fold…

Number(s) of The Beast


Numbers tell the story.

I work with numbers all day long. Numbers tell you the truth about what’s going on, if you can manage to be neutral when evaluating them. People – in all our marvelously complicated screwed-up glory – make the world go around. But numbers are how you make sense of it all.

I’ve been reading mostly lately, not commenting or writing my little stories. But the discussion here the last couple of days about defeating evil Republicans vs. how the Democrats are ‘worse than evil’ for enabling evil — well it gets the juices flowing.

I believe in nuance, in all sorts of shades of grey, yet I also believe there is an objective truth to many if not most issues. This contradiction fuels my life in many ways. But I believe complex issues can be explained through detailed analysis and empirical review. Science for lack of a better term.

So — you want some numbers that I think will help decipher our modern day political code? Six (plus one) are humbly presented below. A warning in advance, I’m avoiding links on purpose for narrative purposes. Google is our friend.

The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: Corporations Spy on Citizens for the FBI

Both The Progressive and the ACLU have stories up over on their sites about how the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have recruited tens of thousands of members of corporate America to be the “eyes and ears” of the government. In return, they receive secret briefings on terrorism. The program is called InfraGard, and from The Progressive story:

The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does-and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law.

InfraGard is “a child of the FBI,” says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.

The Unitary Decider and the Enabling Democrats

It comes down to this: the Bush Administration believes it is above the law, and Congressional Democrats concur. There is no other way to explain the unwillingness of the Democrats to force the confrontations that would reassert the primacy of law. The Administration demonstrates, time and again, that as long as it is allowed to get away with anything, it will do whatever it wants. The rule of law and the balance of powers are irrelevant. Obsolete, perhaps. Perhaps quaint. When Nancy Pelosi took impeachment off the table, it signaled to the Administration that it had a green light to function as a monarchy. If it wasn’t going to be held accountable for past crimes, it might as well continue committing them, abusing its power, and overstepping its authority whenever and however it pleased. The Democrats would not force confrontations, because to do so would inevitably lead to questions of consequences. Eliminate the very question of impeachment, and there are no consequences. All is allowed. All is acceptable. All is tacitly permitted.

At his confirmation hearings, Michael Mukasey gave lip service about being an independent Attorney General. Since taking office, he has been nothing but an Administration lackey. Yesterday, he proved it once again. First, Mukasey told Congress that he would not investigate waterboarding, if those who committed it had done so with DOJ approval, and he also explained that he will not investigate warrantless wiretapping, if it was ordered by the president, under DOJ advisement. The rationale, if you can call it that, is made clear in this exchange between Mukasey and Rep. Bill Delahunt, as paraphrased by emptywheel:

Delahunt: You said if an opinion was rendered, that would insulate him from any consequences.

MM: We could not investigate or prosecute somebody for acting in reliance on a justice department opinion.

Delahunt: If that opinion was inaccurate and in fact violated a section of US Criminal Code, that reliance is in effect an immunity from any criminal culpability.

MM: Immunity connoted culpability.

Delahunt: This is brand new legal theory.

MM: Disclosure of waterboarding was part of CIA interrogation and permitted by DOJ opinion, would and should bar investigation of people who relied on that opinion.

Delahunt: Let’s concede that waterboarding is in contravention of international obligation. If opinion rendered that amounted to malpractice, whoever employed that technique, simply by relying on that opinion would be legally barred from criminal investigation.

MM: If you’re talking about legal mistake, there is an inquiry regarding whether properly rendered opinions or didn’t. But yes, that bars the person who relied on that opinion from being investigated.

Delahunt: I find that a new legal doctrine. The law is the law.

MM: If it comes to pass that somebody at a later date that the opinion should have been different the person who relied on the opinion cannot be investigated.

Delahunt: Is there a legal precedent.

MM: There is practical consideration. I can’t cite you a case.

Now, keep in mind that Mukasey is not saying that these acts may not have been illegal, nor is he saying that there are questions about whether or not these acts were even committed. He is saying that neither the facts nor the law matters. He is saying that if officials of the Department of Justice give permission for the commission of possibly illegal acts, those perpetrating said acts are automatically immunized from legal consequences. As dday put it:

For those of us who are concerned about the Big Two. w/poll

Last night, the Senate voted on two FISA amendments, which is all well and good I suppose.  This is a battle over whether the government can spy on it’s citizens, and if there will be retroactive immunity for the telecoms which may have helped facilitate this spying.  Here are the links to the DKos MP threads for the two votes:

First Vote

Second Vote


A Perfect Storm: or….Unbridled Optimism

November 2008:


After months of hammering on the Republican candidates obvious weaknesses the time has finally arrived for the voters to decide: John McCain versus Barack Obama.

After nearly two years on the campaign trail a tired and old looking McCain is limping into the general election, out of cash, out of ideas, and resigned to defeat at the hands of the young and vibrant Senator from Illinois.

The events surrounding the campaign have been reminiscent of the movie A Perfect Storm.

Pony Mambo Party

The floor is open.  Shall we dance?

All pictures from PBS’ America’s Ballroom challenge

The mambo is a Cuban musical form and dance.  Mambo was the name of a Haitian Voodoo princess.  It means conversation with the gods. The first music called “mambo” was written in the late 1930s by a Cuban composer.  Instruments commonly used for mambo music are conga, cajon, bango, timbales, claves, upright bass, piano, trombone, trumpet and saxophone.  

The mambo craze began in the late 1940s when a musician named Perez Prado came up with a dance to go with it.  

Hit it Perez!

Mambo No. 5

Now for some modern mambo craze.  This is a fun song and the video rocks!

The Mambo Craze by De Phazz

Torture by the US – A History

There are some things one never forgets. I’ll never forget my first, and only, encounter with torture some 40 years ago. Our daylight patrol, some 4 or 5 Marines and probably the same number of Vietnamese Province level militia troops engaged some unseen VC hidden in a tree-line and a firefight ensued. The tree-line held a small hamlet and predictably the village people carrying with them their most valued possessions fled in our direction. The fled because they knew their village would most likely be shelled, strafed or bombed. As it turned out the village was strafed by a couple of passes of a fighter jet spraying the area with 40 mm cannon fire.

Our Vietnamese counterparts detained a young lady they said was a VC, a nurse they claimed. We brought her back to our ragged compound where they bound her, stripped off her shirt and attached wires to her nipples and used a crank operated electrical device to shock her. Needless to say it was thoroughly disgusting. Through it all she refused to talk. I admired her courage. They took her off to the District Hq and we never heard any more about her.

In April 2004, the American public was stunned by televised photographs from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison showing hooded Iraqis stripped naked, posed in contorted positions, and visibly suffering humiliating abuse while U.S. soldiers stood by smiling. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld quickly assured Congress that the abuses were “perpetrated by a small number of U.S. military,” whom New York Times columnist William Safire soon branded “creeps.”

Most Americans became aware of torture when Seymour Hersh broke the story about Abu Ghraib. Where did it all begin? I witnessed torture 40 years ago and have come to wonder why, where and when it all started.

After French soldiers used the technique on Henri Alleg during the Battle for Algiers in 1957, this journalist wrote a moving description that turned the French people against both torture and the Algerian War. “I tried,”

Alleg wrote, “by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could. But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me.”

Let us think about the deeper meaning of Alleg’s sparse words–“a terrible agony, that of death itself.” As the water blocks air to the lungs, the human organism’s powerful mammalian diving reflex kicks in, and the brain is wracked by horrifically painful panic signals–death, death, death. After a few endless minutes, the victim vomits out the water, the lungs suck air, and panic subsides. And then it happens again, and again, and again–each

time inscribing the searing trauma of near death in human memory.

from: http://www.zmag.org/content/sh…


Mukasey Won’t Enforce Congressional Contempt Citations

In his Stars Hollow Gazette, ek hornbeck provides this link about AG Mukasey saying he would not enforce contempt citations

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