December 20, 2008 archive

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Automakers grab loans, look to Obama White House

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writers

41 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The long-term fate of the auto industry rests with Barack Obama now that President George W. Bush has given car companies $17.4 billion in emergency rescue loans.

Simply letting the Big Three collapse was not an option amid a recession, housing slump and financial credit crunch, Bush said in announcing the short-term loans and demanding tough concessions from the automakers and their employees.

“By giving the auto companies a chance to restructure, we will shield the American people from a harsh economic blow at a vulnerable time,” the president said in his Saturday radio address. “And we will give American workers an opportunity to show the world once again that they can meet challenges with ingenuity and determination, and emerge stronger than before.”

It Has to Stop!

I think some the angst I’m feeling comes from my fear that, even with our historic victory, that too little will change in time to make a difference.  Generals always want to fight the last war, while politicians want to wage the last campaign.  It’s easy to look backward and hard to look forward, and far too few seem to realize the extent to which the stakes have been raised.  Our circumstances have really become quite dire.  That doesn’t sink in easily for the many who want to pretend that the world is always going to be the way it’s always been.

The politics of yesterday are not going to serve us any longer.  We need more than change.  We need more than a mid-course correction.  We need the crazy to stop.

And I don’t mean just slow down a little, or be a little less crazy.  I mean it has to stop.  We have to reverse course in this damned country, not just modify it somewhat.  


A Mississippi Supreme Court Dissenting Opinion Calls For Death Penalty Abolition

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

Mississippi has long supported the death penalty.  So it is remarkable when a Mississippi Supreme Court Justice writes a dissenting opinion in a death penalty case that calls for the abolition of the death penalty.  In Doss v. State (pdf), Justice Oliver Diaz, Jr., did just that, he called for the end of the death penalty.

The Sun Herald reports:

Outgoing Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr.’s impassioned call for an end to the death penalty has drawn both criticism and praise.

In what was likely his departing dissent as his tenure on Mississippi’s highest court ends, Diaz says society finally must recognize that “even as murderers commit the most cruel and unusual crime, so too do executioners render cruel and unusual punishment.”

Jimmy Robertson, a Jackson attorney who served on the state Supreme Court from 1983 to 1992, said Diaz laid out a number of points, including that the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder, that were “pretty close to being irrefutable to anybody that’s objective on the question.”

The criticism in the Sun Herald article was provided not by Mississippians but instead solely by Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation of Sacramento, a right wing, pro death penalty organization, who provided the usual shop worn generalities.

Follow me to the Field.

  I started earning my own money in the first grade. Me and my little buddy David, my best bud back then, decided we could get rich shoveling driveways and sidewalks. By springtime David and I were starting to like having a little money so we expanded our operations to mowing yards. My dad said that as long as we kept oil and gas in the mower we were welcome to use it. It felt like we had been given the keys to the financial kingdom of our dreams. I liked David because he was a quiet kid who laughed like crazy at every one of my stupid jokes and he never stole anything from me. David liked me because I didn’t make fun of him and didn’t let other kids beat him up when I was around.  

The Citizens Petition: Special Prosecutor for Bush War Crimes….. Premiere

The introductory essay, now at Daily Kos, soon to be (hopefully!) everywhere.

If you wish to post this essay, or just the petition, on any site or your own blog, please mail us at and we will send you the entire essay, complete with HTML code, to post wherever you wish. Please feel free to edit, within the parameters of keeping the original spirit and intent. We enthusiastically give full permission for such use!

Please go to and sign the petition!

With the recent admissions by Vice President Cheney and the release of the Senate Armed Services Committee Report on detainee treatment, what we have known in the blogosphere for years has now….finally….made it into the mainstream. The Bush Administration planned, developed and carried out an organized torture program stretching from Gitmo to Iraq, Afghanistan and secret prisons around the world.

Despite their protestations and attempts to cover themselves with highly questionable legal opinions, this was and is a War Crime. Their politicization and corruption of the Department of Justice has stymied any investigation and left all efforts at accountability and justice to the new Obama Administrations DOJ, and specifically to AG Designate Holder.

Now, even the New York Times is….again, finally…calling for a Special Prosecutor to investigate these crimes.  

Bush’s OSHA Sells Out Workers: A “Despicable Pardon” to Cintas in Worker Death and Injuries

You may remember that I wrote a few times over the last two years about Eleazar Torres Gomez and Cintas.  Here’s one diary that gives you some background: Did Eleazar Torres-Gomez Lose his Life for Company Profits?

Eleazar Torres-Gomez was pronounced dead on the scene after apparently being dragged by a conveyor into an industrial dryer. Torres-Gomez was trapped in the dryer-which can reportedly reach temperatures of 300 degrees-for at least 20 minutes.

Burned to death in March 2007, and it was preventable.  Now with Bush riding off into the sunset, he couldn’t resist harming working people for Christmas.  The Bush OSHA has entered into a sellout settlement with Cintas over six OSHA cases regarding safety hazards at its facilities, including hazards that led to the March 2007 death of Eleazar Torres Gomez.  

Congressman Phil Hare called this settlement a “a despicable pardon” for a “serial offender,” and asked:

How many lives will be lost before this company is required to gets its act together?  

How many more?

“Do what you have to do and leave the bodies on the side of the road”

The words in the title are instructions the New Orleans Police Department gave to residents of the city in the wake of Katrina. A.C. Thompson of The Nation tells a chilling tale about all this in an article titled Katrina’s Hidden Race War. I know that many of you Dharmaniacs travel the tubes quite extensively, so perhaps you’ve seen this story and the video Thompson made about it. But just in case some of you haven’t, I wanted to write about it here.

If we go back to those horrific days in September 2005 after the storm, we can all remember the media’s focus on Black people “looting.” That kind of fear-mongering mixed with racism was enough for one small and mostly white area of New Orleans, Algiers Point, to form a militia and take up open season on Black men.


Snow? Pfui! The Iraq Moratorium Rocked…

Yesterday marked the 16th Third Friday observance of the Iraq Moratorium, a locally-based, grassroots-powered, monthly anti-war protest.

Heavy snow blanketed much of the Northeast and Midwest and definitely caused some cancellations of Moratorium Day events.

Although reports have just started coming in to the website this morning, I don’t mind declaring the day a triumph.

And that’s not movement bravado. Two events–one national and blogospheric, one local and on the ground–that just happened to take place on the Third Friday of December show the growing importance of this campaign.

First, the crew announced the results of their members’ vote on this year’s priorities, with hundreds of thousands of members weighing in. The process was supposed to produce three national priorities for the group for 2009. Close voting resulted in the adoption of four. Along with national healthcare, rescuing the economy and global warming, MoveOn promises to prioritize the fight to “End the War in Iraq” in 2009. Unless current trends are suddenly reversed, this will require MoveOn organizers to challenge, directly and actively, major parts of the Iraq policy of the incoming administration. Mobilizing the MoveOn base will provide a real boost to the struggle to end this unjust and unjustifiable war.

Here in NYC, the hundred-plus students who had occupied the New School “suspended” their takeover at 3 AM on Friday after a sudden victory. The administration said it would give in to most of their immediate demands! (The seizure was diaried here with an interesting and contentious comments thread.)

How is this connected to the Iraq Moratorium? Among the demands still on the table are the resignations of university president Bob Kerrey, a “liberal” advocate of the Iraq war from the start, and the treasurer of the Board of Trustees, a gent named Robert B. Millard. Millard is a top exec at a company called L-3 Communications.

New School SDS discovered that part of what falls under L-3’s definition of “communications” is providing torturers to the US military at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib! They launched their campaign against L-3 place a year ago on Moratorium Day. They have continued to dog Millard and observe Moratorium Day since. (Their website has detailed dirt on L-3.)

Add to this the fact that just a week ago the largest anti-war coalition in the US, United For Peace & Justice, adopted the Iraq Moratorium as a project at their National Assembly. Going into 2009, the Iraq Moratorium is on a roll!

Me, I’ve already got January 16 marked on my calendar, and can only urge, “Go, thou, and do likewise.”

Crossposted at Daily Kos.

Docudharma Times Saturday December 20

The Auto Bailout: Means

Screw The Workers And Their Union

Saturday’s Headlines:

Next Obama must put his centrist Cabinet to work

Mugabe defiant as Brown steps up pressure on African leaders to move against him

S. Africa’s Crime-Driven Emigration

Merkel warning on German funds gap stirs old divisions

‘Greek Syndrome’ is catching as youth take to streets

The Dawn of a new Basra

Iraqi judge orders Baath party plot suspects freed

Belatedly, China spreads word about HIV prevention

Australia opens controversial asylum centre on Christmas Island

Extreme drug violence grips Mexico border city

Madoff Scheme Kept Rippling Outward, Across Borders


Published: December 19, 2008

By the end, the world itself was too small to support the vast Ponzi scheme constructed by Bernard L. Madoff.

Initially, he tapped local money pulled in from country clubs and charity dinners, where investors sought him out to casually plead with him to manage their savings so they could start reaping the steady, solid returns their envied friends were getting.

Then, he and his promoters set sights on Europe, again framing the investments as memberships in a select club. A Swiss hedge fund manager, Michel Dominicé, still remembers the pitch he got a few years ago from a salesman in Geneva.

Iraqi shoe-thrower was beaten by security, says judge

• Chief investigator says journalist may be pardoned

• Doubts cast on apology as ‘shoe intifada’ spreads

Ian Black, Middle East editor

The Guardian, Saturday 20 December 2008

Muntazer al-Zaidi could hardly have anticipated the extraordinary reaction when he hurled his shoes at George Bush on Sunday to protest at the invasion of Iraq. His “farewell kiss” to the US president has kept the previously unknown TV journalist in the centre of global attention – a hero across the Arab world and beyond.

Zaidi, who was wrestled to the ground by security men, was beaten on the face, investigating judge Dhia al-Kinani revealed in Baghdad yesterday. But claims that he has asked the Iraqi prime minister to forgive him for his “big ugly act” were immediately questioned by his brother.

Zaidi’s emergence as a role model for anti-American resistance was confirmed by the Iranian ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who praised what he called the “shoe intifada [uprising]” at Tehran University, where demonstrations against the “Great Satan” have been routine for 30 years.



Aid in Hand, Clock Ticks for Detroit

With $17.4 Billion, a Mandate: Restructure by March or Go Bankrupt

By Steven Mufson, David Cho and Cecilia Kang

Washington Post Staff Writers

Saturday, December 20, 2008; Page A01

President Bush put the government into the daunting role of industrial oversight yesterday by grudgingly throwing a $17.4 billion lifeline to General Motors and Chrysler, a politically sensitive mission that President-elect Barack Obama will soon inherit.

The emergency loans mark the first time the administration has extended its bailout to companies outside the financial sector and will head off imminent bankruptcy for the ailing Detroit automakers, which have said they lack enough cash to make major payments due to suppliers by the beginning of January.


All roads lead to the Rome Statute.

From Wiki:

Following years of negotiations aimed at establishing a permanent international tribunal to punish individuals who commit genocide and other serious international crimes, the United Nations General Assembly convened a five-week diplomatic conference in Rome in June 1998 “to finalize and adopt a convention on the establishment of an international criminal court”.[7][8] On July 17, 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted by a vote of 120 to 7, with 21 countries abstaining.[5] The seven countries that voted against the treaty were Iraq, Israel, Libya, the People’s Republic of China, Qatar, the United States, and Yemen.[5]

Article 126 of the statute provided that it would enter into force shortly after the number of states that had ratified it reached sixty.[3] This happened on April 11, 2002, when ten countries ratified the statute at the same time at a special ceremony held at the United Nations headquarters in New York.[9] The treaty entered into force on July 1, 2002;[9] the ICC can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date.[10]

McClatchy has a great article that is pretty much a must-read summary of the consensus of where we are now on the subject of “War Crimes“.

Emboldened by a Democratic win of the White House, civil libertarians and human rights groups want the incoming Obama administration to investigate whether the Bush administration committed war crimes. They don’t just want low-level CIA interrogators, either. They want President George W. Bush on down.

There’s a little problem here, though.

Without wider support, the campaign to haul top administration officials before an American court is likely to stall.

In the end, Bush administration critics might have more success by digging out the truth about what happened and who was responsible, rather than assigning criminal liability, and letting the court of public opinion issue the verdicts, many say.

I strongly recommend reading the entire McClatchy article. I posted recently on the subject of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I don’t like the Reconciliation part any more than anyone else does. Pat Leahy (D – VT) predicts that there will be no criminal punishments. He’s almost certainly right. Dick Cheney has just admitted his guilt to the entire world and nothing – absolutely nothing – is being done about it. And nothing will be done about it.

There is, however, one possibility: the United States of America joins the International Criminal Court.

Are we up to it? Are we willing to join the ICC and allow any potential war criminals in our population to be tried openly and fairly on the world stage? Bust ourselves and turn ourselves in and plead for mercy? I doubt it. But it would be nice.

Our biggest obstacle to making this happen is mentioned in the McClatchy article:

Also left unanswered is whether any top congressional Democrats consented directly or indirectly to the most controversial interrogation practices after the administration disclosed them in closed-door briefings.

I think one of them said something like “impeachment is off the table” after the 2006 elections. More and better. Right. Check the dates. Scrutinize the time-lines.

Our leaders don’t lead. They follow. Sometimes they need to get shoved out front. We may have a different one now. We’ll see. Joining the ICC would be an emphatic statement that the truth will be known.


Late Night Karaoke

Speak With Enthusiasm  

ELTON JOHN Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)

Random Japan

The Year’s Best…

In 2008, academics discovered that…

• A 30cm-long, 130 million-year-old fossil unearthed in Ishikawa Prefecture belongs to the world’s oldest plant-eating lizard

• Menstrual blood can be used to repair heart damage

• Thanks to the heat island effect, the average January temperature in Tokyo rose 2.62 degrees during the past 50 years

• Men who eat lots of fruits and vegetables are half as likely to suffer esophageal cancer as their junk food-eating brethren

• East Asians tend to examine faces starting with the nose, whereas just about everyone else focuses on the eyes and mouth

• Genetics can account for the variances in physical traits between “mainland” and “Ryukyuan” Japanese, such as hair thickness and “whether earwax is dry or wet”

• There is a way to measure the brain waves of a cow to determine whether it is afflicted with BSE

• Caffeine has the effect of relieving pain

• People who are either socially outgoing or “nonconformist” tend to have higher obesity rates than average, while neurotics are skinnier

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