January 27, 2009 archive

Who Caved?

Via TPM….

It may be time to coin the phrase “pulling a Specter,” because Sen. Arlen Specter (PA), the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, just did it again. After making a huge fuss questioning the independence of Eric Holder, Specter just caved and said he’ll support the attorney general nominee.

“I can say with some confidence that there won’t be a successful filibuster,” Specter told reporters at a press conference gathered to share his thoughts on Holder in advance of tomorrow’s Judiciary panel vote on the nominee.

Specter added that the strong recommendations Holder received from former FBI director Louis Freeh and former DoJ No. 2 James Comey were influential in swaying his vote.

“At no time did I challenge Mr. Holder’s integrity,” the Pennsylvania senator concluded. (But he sure came close, according to Holder himself.) “It was a question of judgment.”

Speaking of judgment, Holder also has resolved — to Specter’s satisfaction, at least — the GOP demand that he promise not to prosecute Bush administration intelligence officials who engaged in brutal interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

“The gist of” Holder’s stance on the issue, Specter told me, “is that if you have an authoritative legal opinion, that’s a defense in terms of mens rea, of intent. That’s a broad generalization. I don’t think you can go any further than that until you examine the specific facts of a case.”

Let us HOPE it was Spectre…

Knocking Down Bush’s Legal Advice Torture Defense

If you wish to repost this essay you can download a .txt file of the html here  (right click and save). Permission granted. (Thanks Edger for coding!)

Bush thinks he can beat a torture prosecution because the law provides a defense of acting on legal counsel’s advice.  So, Bush can whip out those infamous legal memos, which opined that torture lite is not torture.

However, two little jabs can knock down this defense. One poke should educate the public (and potential jurors) that torture lite is torture under the law. Bush is banking on people limiting torture to gruesome, physical mutilations even though seemingly harmless acts cause similar pain, injuries and death. Jurors believing this false distinction are more likely to find Bush had reasonable grounds to rely on legal advice that supported his view.  The second poke ties in the reality that Bush ignored US findings that torture lite methods constitute torture, particularly when several techniques are combined together. This jab also includes the truth that prisoners killed by those innocuous stress positions renders it unreasonable for a President to claim good faith reliance on legal advice of his hired guns.

Trials for Torturers

Re-banning torture is fine – but it’s hardly enough.


Torture is one of those words that is just too easy to say.  The facility with which it slides off the tongue belies its terrible gravity.  

The act of torture is cruelty personified.  It is easily among the most horrific deeds of which we are capable.  What could be worse?  Murder and genocide I suppose…but little else.

Four at Four

  1. The British Government must release cabinet minutes on lead-up to Iraq war, reports The Guardian. The UK information tribunal has ordered the release of Tony Blair’s cabinet meetings for the 13 and 17 March of 2003 during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

    The meetings considered the highly controversial issue of whether the invasion was allowed under international law. Lord Goldsmith, who was attorney general at the time, initially suggested that the legality of the invasion was legally questionable before subsequently issuing legal advice saying that it would be compatible with international law.

    This has given rise to persistent claims that ministers were not fully briefed on the possible legal pitfalls of an invasion.

    Gordon Brown’s government has 28 days to appeal.

  2. The Washington Independent reports the House Republican Strategy is to embrace Obama. “Republicans are attempting to link themselves to the popular Obama administration while criticizing the work of the Democratic Congress. The goal is to oppose Democratic policy without being seen as opposing or obstructing the president, a posture that, they hope, will put them in better position to win back voters if the Democrats’ popularity falters.”

  3. The NY Times reports Geography is dividing Democrats over energy policy. Congressional Democrats are plotting to thwart President Obama’s moves to address global warming. “Mr. Obama has said he intends to press ahead on such an initiative, despite opposition within his own party in Congress and divisions among some of his advisers over the timing, scope and cost of legislation to curb carbon emissions.”

    However, these pro-pollution Democrats are using similar ‘jobs’ rhetoric the Republicans used for nearly the past 30 years. “If we pass a climate bill the wrong way, it will hurt American jobs and the American economy, as more and more production jobs go to places like China, where it’s cheaper,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

    Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) “is a leader of the so-called Gang of 10, representing the coal-dependent states in the middle of the country.” By the end of 2008, the group swelled to 16 climate dead-ender Senate Democrats, including Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.

  4. The CS Monitor reports the Supreme Court affirms shield from employer retaliation.

    Employees who provide evidence during an informal investigation of discrimination in the workplace are legally protected against retaliation from the boss or other senior managers.

    In an important workers’ rights decision announced Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shields employees from retaliatory acts even when the employee hasn’t filed a formal complaint…

    The decision puts managers and supervisors on notice that they face legal consequences if they use their power in the organization to try to cover up their own discriminatory actions by retaliating against complaining employees. In addition, the decision puts employees on notice that, when they come forward to help expose discrimination in the workplace, they clearly enjoy the protections of the law.

Don’t worry, they WILL learn.

And by “they,” I mean the Republicans.

The Republicans who are vowing to oppose the stimulus bill.

The Democrats don’t need to learn to avoid bipartisanship.

The Republicans need to learn how to embrace it, and they should learn that lesson quickly.

Hey Republicans …YOU Did This….Remember?

Alternate title: Republicans Throwing Tantrums: Parenting 101

There are different theories on parenting. Especially when it comes to little children throwing tantrums. Especially when it comes to little children throwing tantrums….in the middle of a burning house.

That they lit on fire.

And then threw gasoline on.

And now are standing over the blaze with more buckets of (drill baby drill) gasoline.

A quiet little reminder for our esteemed Republican colleagues in the House and Senate….


And here is a hint, REAL PEOPLE are suffering….because of you.


War Crimes Prosecution In The Media Now In A Way Impeachment Never Was

Progressive Democrats of America board member David Swanson and Yellow Dog Democrat and Chair of The National Congress of Black Women Dr. Fay Williams, who worked for two years to help get Obama elected, talk to Real News CEO Paul Jay about prosecuting George Bush and Dick Cheney for war crimes, and about how Obama is pretty much backed into a corner now and will have a very difficult time avoiding doing so.

Real News: January 27, 2009 – 10 min 51 sec

Should Obama prosecute Bush and Cheney


Swanson: Reversing the policies does not provide a deterrent

Dr. Fay Williams: “People have to make him do it“.

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The Honeymoon & The Reality: The Cult Of the Presidency

Matt Welch is a journalist, blogger, pundit, and libertarian. Since 2008, he has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the online magazine, Reason. From 2006 to 2007, he was the Editorial Page Editor for the Los Angeles Times.

In a so far two part discussion with more to come, Welch talks with Real News CEO Paul Jay with an analysis of President Barack Obama’s campaign statements on various topics, including Foreign Policy, his speech to AIPAC, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others, and Obama’s inaugural address, in an attempt to get a handle on what can be expected from an Obama presidency.

Welch says in Part 1 that, “Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were the first “progressive” reformers who started the process of bringing monarchial symbols to the presidency. George W. Bush famously came up with the idea of the unitary executive, whereby the president is somehow constitutionally above the law. What is interesting about Barack Obama is that he started his campaign as someone who attacked that aspect of the presidency, but then stopped talking about it.

During the inauguration speech Obama said “we reject the false choice between security and our ideals,” but supported Bush in his overriding of the rejected bailout to the auto industry, and in Part 2 below Welch concludes that Obama is going to maintain much of Bush’s second term politics, which saw him more willing to talk to regimes that were “unfavorable” to the United States.

Real News: January 26, 2009 – 9 min 54 sec

The cult of the Presidency


How will George W. Bush’s concept of the “unitary executive” play out under Barack Obama?

Docudharma Times Tuesday Jamuary 27

Representative John Boehner House Minority Leader

Won’t Support The Stimulus Package

Stamps His Feet And Jumps Up And Down

Tuesday’s Headlines:

New Prime-Time Ads Act Now!

Zimbabwe power-sharing deal reached, South Africa says

On trial, the warlord ‘who led an army of child soldiers’

Week of mass strikes set to paralyse France in protest against Sarkozy’s reforms

EU divided over taking in detainees when terror camp closes

Pictures ‘prove’ that Burma refugees were left to die at sea

Sri Lanka nears victory in long war with Tamil Tigers

Ex-Guantánamo inmates return to militancy in Yemen

‘Two killed’ in Gaza border clash

Mexico City opens the 1st of 300 planned soup kitchens

Barack Obama tells the Middle East: ‘Americans are not your enemy’

From Times Online

January 27, 2009

Times Online

US President Barack Obama has told the Muslim world that “Americans are not your enemy” and renewed his pledge to travel to make an address in the capital of a major Muslim nation.

In his first interview with Arab television since becoming president, Mr Obama told the al-Arabiya television that his administration would adopt a more comprehensive approach in its relations with the Muslim world.

He also said that Israel and the Palestinians should resume their peace negotiations and he praised Saudi King Abdullah for putting forward an Arab plan for peace in the Middle East.

“It is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Mr Obama told the Dubai-based Arabic cable TV channel. “These things are interrelated.”

At a Flash Point in Gaza, A Family’s Deadly Ordeal


By Jonathan Finer

Washington Post Foreign Service

Tuesday, January 27, 2009; Page A01

ZAYTOUN, Gaza Strip — Just before dawn on Jan. 4, a sledgehammer crashed through the living-room wall of the home of Almaz al-Samuni in this southern enclave of Gaza City, pounding a hole wide enough for someone to poke a rifle through while shouting in a language she didn’t understand.

“Get out of the house now,” an Israeli soldier ordered, this time in accented Arabic, she recalled. Almaz, small for her age of 13, and her family quickly did as they were told, heading for her uncle Wael’s house nearby, where by daybreak 92 family members had packed in thigh-to-thigh. It was a week into Israel’s 22-day war with Hamas.



Two Prisons, Similar Issues for President


Published: January 26, 2009

WASHINGTON – For months, a national debate has raged over the fate of the 245 detainees at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But what may be an equally difficult problem now confronts the Obama administration in the 600 prisoners packed into a cavernous, makeshift prison on the American air base at Bagram in Afghanistan.

Military personnel who know Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan. The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers. Many are still held communally in big cages. The Bush administration never allowed journalists or human rights advocates inside.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Fire Works

Indoctri Nation

Come stay with me

on this day

and watch

the pretty lights

I know it’s

a little loud

but oooohh

and aahhhh

along with everyone

as we celebrate

the beauty of war

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–July 4, 2008

Late Night Karaoke

Big Hair And Ugly Stretch Pants

What Else Do You Need  

Van Halen – Jump

“Medical Ethics and Torture: Revising the Declaration of Toyko”

The following is a press release from The Lancet, describing an important new article on the question of medical ethics in relation to the torture of prisoners. It is reproduced here (with bulk of my own contribution to this essay to follow):

A Viewpoint in this week’s edition of The Lancet discusses how the 1975 Declaration of Tokyo, on Medical Ethics and Torture, could be further revised to make it more relevant to the world today – making sure that physicians who are complicit in torture of prisoners are held to account. The Viewpoint is written by Dr Steven Miles, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota, MN, USA, and Dr Alfred Freedman, New York Medical College, USA.

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