February 9, 2009 archive

Leahy Calls for Truth Commission

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. “truth commission” should investigate Bush administration policies including the promotion of war in Iraq, detainee treatment and wiretapping without a warrant, an influential senator proposed on Monday.


“We need to come to a shared understanding of the failures of the recent past,” Leahy said in a speech at Georgetown University.

“Rather than vengeance, we need a fair-minded pursuit of what actually happened,” he said. “And we do that to make sure it never happens again.”

RUkind’s essay on Truth Commisions for historic reference.

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports High winds slash Spanish energy prices. “Spain has built so many wind farms in recent years that the arrival of high winds and the subsequent surge of electricity into the national grid now has an immediate impact on the price at which it is sold… Spain added another 11% to its wind-power capacity last year. That increase contributed to a year in which wind power accounted for 43% of new generation capacity – more new electricity capacity in Europe than any other source.”

    In a somewhate related story, The Economist adds Spain plans the most extensive high-speed rail network in Europe.

    New passengers reflect a revolution in Spanish travel. Domestic airlines have lost a fifth of their passengers in the space of a year. And long-distance trains have gained almost a third.

    This shift is the consequence of an ambitious programme for high-speed rail. The streamlined AVE trains, with their sleek corridors, work tables and spectacular views, are stealing the show. Those used to the tedious taxi rides, security checks and crowded shuttle flights traditionally endured by Spanish businessmen will not be surprised. The opening of the Barcelona-Madrid line a year ago marked the beginning of the end of airlines’ dominance…

    Spain’s high-speed network is still in its infancy. Another 9,000km of lines are planned over the next decade. The aim is to create Europe’s most extensive high-speed network, with 90% of Spaniards living within 50km of a station.

    Imagine what a country can do when it pulls out of stupid money and life wasting wars!?

  2. Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A. The Washington Post reports the National security team Delivers a grim appraisal of Afghanistan war. “U.S. officials said more troops were urgently needed, both from America and its NATO allies, to counter the increasing strength of the Taliban and warlords opposed to the central government in Kabul. They also said new approaches were needed to untangle an inefficient and conflicting array of civilian-aid programs that have wasted billions of dollars.”

    And the NY Times adds President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, says Afghan war ‘tougher than Iraq’. “It’s going to be a long, difficult struggle,” he said. Plus, the U.S. is risking the future of NATO by continuing the war in Afghanistan.

  3. Surprise! Another Republican trojan horse. The $15,000 tax credit won’t help low-income home buyers, experts say, reports the LA Times. “To take full advantage of the credit, buyers would have to earn enough to use it and spend at least $150,000 on a home… Since the money comes as a deductible tax credit spread over two years, home buyers must earn enough to have $7,500 in income taxes — $81,900 per year for a family of four to get the full benefit, according to the housing coalition.”

    And according to Bloomberg News, U.S. taxpayers risk $9.7 trillion on bailout programs. “The stimulus package the U.S. Congress is completing would raise the government’s commitment to solving the financial crisis to $9.7 trillion, enough to pay off more than 90 percent of the nation’s home mortgages.”

  4. Change in Iran? The LA Times reports a Former Iranian president declares candidacy. “Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami announced Sunday that he will run as a candidate in the June 12 election, setting up a challenge to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that could alter Iran’s domestic and foreign policies… Throughout his two terms, Khatami sought a detente with the West.”

Getting the Bail-Out Right: Stimulus versus Bail-Out and Debt versus Leverage (Updated)

Burning the Midnight Oil for the Next American Revolution

Jerome a Paris at the European Tribune focuses in on the central problem of the Financial crisis, and therefore the central problem of the Bail-Out:

But, pontificating aside, the reality is that we had a large scale grand robbery of the past few years. To make it simple: the Fed printed money, gave it for free to rich people, who lent it to poor people at at nice profit instead of paying them wages; reimbursement was possible only if house prices went up, and that lasted for a while. The rich made out like bandits on their assets, financial or otherwise, and the poor thought they were more or less keeping up with the Joneses (the reality was a large-scale transfer of wealth from one group to the other, no bonus points for guessing which was which). Now that it’s no longer the case, the poor lose their house, stop paying their debt at some point, put the banks in a pickles, and the economy unravels. Except that the banks are being bailed out, which means, fundamentally, saving the owners of financial assets (bank bondholders specifically, and bond holders in general) at the expense of taxpayers, thus having the goverment validate and consolidate the past transfer of wealth.

So leverage is the central problem … or rather, the central problems:

  • For those looking to hold onto their ill-gotten gains, how to maintain the maximum amount of wealth while they deleverage, which means how to convert what was always in a large part fantasy wealth into actual claims on actual productive capacity
  • For the other 99% of us, how to prevent those who obtained fantasy wealth from converting it into real wealth at our expense

In Praise of Partisanship: Rush is Right

Obama’s plan would buy votes for the Democrat Party, in the same way FDR’s New Deal established majority power for 50 years of Democrat rule…..

Rush Limbaugh, drug addict

Let us review…

A devastating terrorist attack that Republicans had clear warning of…succeeded. Republicans deregulated every industry and financial entity that lobbied (bribed) them to deregulate. Then the Republicans placed those lobbyists in what remained of the gutted regulatory agencies, to ‘oversee’ their own industries. The Republicans passed tax cuts for the rich that ‘redistributed wealth’ from the poor and working classes to the top 10%, the majority of whom are, you guessed it….Republicans. Who promptly took that money out of the economy instead of using it to create jobs. The number of jobs in America steadily declined under Republican policies. The financial, economic and human catastrophe we now face was created, enabled and….ignored until it blew up in all of our faces….by Republicans.

Republicans started spying on American Citizens before 9/11. And as recent revelations confirm, spied on ALL Americans. The Republicans did this with no due process, no probable cause and no warrants. The Republicans established Gitmo. The Republicans thus dissolved Habeas Corpus, the basis of all law in Western Civilization, and began to torture the detainees. Many of which have been proven to be innocent…and in the process established the number one recruiting cause of an entire generation of new terrorists. Number one anyway, until the Republicans transported their torture techniques and regimen from Gitmo….to Abu Ghraib.  Which brings us to…the Republicans invaded Iraq. Widely viewed as the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history, the Republicans are directly responsible for the deaths of up to a million Iraqis…and over 4000 dead American soldiers and tens of thousands of wounded ones.

All while the Republicans decimated every aspect of Veterans funding and allowed Walter Reed Hospital to become a scandal of Republican neglect of our troops…all while the Republicans were calling any and all critics of their terrible policies unpatriotic traitors….who didn’t support the troops.

The Republicans exposed an entire CIA nuclear anti-terrorism network that Valerie Plame worked at, in order to punish her husband, a critic of the Republicans. Then covered it up and obstructed justice in the trial of convicted Republican criminal Scooter Libby. The Republican president then commuted this Republican criminals jail sentence.

A Republican Senator was arrested in an airport bathroom for soliciting gay sex. A Republican Senator admitted being diapered by a prostitute. A Republican Congressman was forced to resign for inappropriate contact with underage Congressional pages. All while the Republicans pushed their “Family Values” agenda against the GLBT community and the rest of America. And Terry Schiavo.

The Republicans subverted, corrupted and politicized the Department of Justice. To the point of Republican Attorneys General refusing to enforce lawful Congressional subpoenas against….any and all Republicans. Including any Republican politicians involved in the Jack Abramoff corruption case, in which only Republicans were implicated in corruption and pay to play. Republicans imprisoned a Democratic governor of one of our 50 states for political reasons. Republicans in the DOJ targeted many more political investigations against Democrats for political purposes.

Republicans left New Orleans to drown.
And STILL haven’t done much to rebuild it.

“What a great and good man–so guileless.”

Crossposted–with minor edits–from Street Prophets, in the belief that this extraordinary ‘ordinary man’ deserves wider recognition, and in the hope that my brief and incomplete account of his life will prove to be of interest.

He wasn’t wealthy, or powerful, or famous. (Though he did leave his mark on one city’s landscape; more on that below). He was merely an exemplar of that ‘Greatest Generation’ we’ve learned to revere and respect. And he was my father.

Born in Bismarck, North Dakota in 1922, he was a true son of the West. His father was a jack-of-all-trades: mechanic, fireman, cowboy, lumberjack (a man who left his parents’ home–and their harsh evangelical faith–as a teenager, never setting foot in a church again–though he carried a pocket New Testament with him for the rest of his life). His mother was the daughter of immigrants who left the German empire as that country became increasingly rigid and militaristic under the second Wilhelm.

The family wandered throughout several western states before finally landing on the Oregon Coast at the beginning of the hard years of the Depression. At one point they lived on a houseboat and were so poor that the only food they had was what they could catch off the side of the boat.

Dad graduated from high school, joined the Air Force in 1942, and served in the South Pacific; like many veterans, he spoke little of his wartime experiences, except to say that ‘we did the right thing.’

You Want Happiness?

If you want happiness for an hour – take a nap.

The Finger Wags And Then Moves On

cross posted at The Dream Antilles

I’m afraid that, when all is said and done, I don’t understand blog reactions and what makes something a big story on blogs and in the traditional media.  And no, I’m not complaining about the response to my eight pieces about the federal death penalty or how many people signed the petition.  This isn’t about me.  Not at all.

It’s about something astonishing.  Now appearing on the recommended list of this blog is a piece by Valtin, US-UK Torture Cover-up, While Conditions Worsen at Guantanamo (Updated).  It’s about the rendition and imprisonment and yes, torture, of Binyam Mohamed and the suppression of information in his UK legal case.  It’s extremely important to read the entire essay.

In the essay, I find alarming items about torture:

The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, “is very far down the list of things they did,” the official said.

This statement was in the original essay before it was updated and it remains there.  When the essay was cross-posted at at GOS, I wrote as a comment in response to the quote:

How in the world can you have this line in a diary and have the diary receive as of this writing 21 comments and 27 recommendations?  I don’t get it.  Why isn’t this story all over dKos?  Why isn’t there a ruckus about it?

Maybe somebody can enlighten me.

The GOS diary ultimately received a total of 34 comments and 47 recommendations. It should have been on the recommended list and it should have had 1,000 indignant comments and recommendation.  But, alas, it didn’t.

I cannot understand or accept that.  

When the diary was updated here at dd, it contained further information from Reprieve, a UK human rights group, about the torture of Binyam Mohamed:

On 21 July 2002, Binyam was rendered to Morocco on a CIA plane. He was held there for 18 months in appalling conditions. To ensure his confession, his Moroccan captors tortured him, stripping him naked and cutting him with a scalpel on his chest and penis. …snip

Binyam’s ordeal in Morocco continued for about 18 months until January 2004, when he was transferred to the ‘Dark Prison’ near Kabul, Afghanistan, a secret prison run by the CIA, which resembled a medieval dungeon with the addition of extremely loud 24-hour music and noise.

Speaking of his time in the ‘Dark Prison’, Binyam said:

“It was pitch black, no lights on in the rooms for most of the time. They hung me up for two days. My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb. There was loud music, Slim Shady [by Eminem] and Dr. Dre for 20 days. Then they changed the sounds to horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds. At one point, I was chained to the rails for a fortnight. The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night. Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.”

From there he was taken to the US military prison at Bagram airbase, and finally, in September 2004, to Guantánamo Bay, where he remains.

This is a report of horrific, brutal, barbaric, illegal treatment.  There cannot be any debate about whether this is or is not torture.  It’s torture plain and simple.

Yet, I don’t see the ruckus about it.  I don’t see it breaking through in the traditional media.  I don’t see a serious response of outrage on the blogs.  If you google “binyam mohamed,” you see that virtually no US media are discussing this case.  I simply cannot understand or accept that.

I may be sorely out of step with others on this. So be it. As I’ve said before, I’d rather be out of formation than off course.  I just don’t understand how this kind of torture can be exposed, and how the US can suppress information about it in UK courts, and why we, that’s you and I, aren’t up in arms about this and pushing the story into the sunlight.

Nonviolently taking back our country part III – your arms too short to put the sun in a box

For those of you who are capable of gleaning something from it, here’s the last part of my series of essays which discuss how lawless groups and cabals under the wing of the military/industrial complex (which naturally includes more than a few people who pretend they aren’t) continue to implement a formulaic plan to take away your Constitutional rights.

I mentioned in my last essay that the US has seen several iterations of “raze and rebuild” corporate strongarming across several industries in the last century. Magnates operating on a national and occasionally international level have remade assorted industries under contrived, artificially created crisis conditions. This formula differs only slightly from the one followed by the military/industrial complex in it’s expansionist efforts in Central and South America, the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere which has been responsible for almost every single war throughout the world after 1945. A fundamental part of the formula is that strong emotional causes are attached to the crisis in question – fear, greed, and religion are used as tools.

The crisis du jour is energy, and the box being constructed for us by those who would like to think they are the only ones left standing is one that continues to place a poorly functioning long-handled spoon in our hands. We are expected to take this spoon from people who state they are the only game in town, and like it.

We don’t have to. No one has to.

The latest brilliant plan on the part of the oil corporations who hold the lion’s share of resources and money is to sell the sun, the wind and the flowing river to you in a box, and pretend that they are doing you a favor. They will do so most assuredly in a manner which infers that you need them more than they need you, and that you will continue to pay them for a very long time for the long handle they have placed between you and these ecologically responsible sources of free energy.

But wait, there’s more! They haven’t quite gotten those new boxes ready yet for production all across the nation, so in the meantime they’ll hard sell the more stupid of you ludicrous fairy tales like “clean coal technology” or “clean and safe natural gas”. For the Red State holdouts and BushCo throwbacks, they’ll soothingly insist that “drill baby drill” is the only way to go.

But the echelons of upper management already know that carbon based energy is as obsolete as the horse and carriage. It wouldn’t be the first time these corporations ate their own. Hundreds of thousands of their own workers are going to have to adapt to the new programs or face the killing floor ordinarily reserved for customers, and how much preparation they’re willing to give an individual worker will determine whether that person’s own job is razed or rebuilt. The knife is already raised over the heads of those blissfully ignorant workers, they just don’t know it yet.

As for you end-users, they’ll just keep tell you anything you want to hear so long as it involves them selling you that long-handled spoon, and then they’ll try to sell you the sun in a box when the box is ready. In some places this is already happening.

Chump Change You Can Believe In


The more things change…

Open Thread


Nothing is certain except thread and taxes.

Docudharma Times Monday February 9

Republicans Turn Their

Back On Americans Across The

Economic Spectrum  

Monday’s Headlines:

Peanut Case Shows Holes in Safety Net

Pakistan identified as biggest foreign policy test

Sonali Samarasinghe: A widow on the run

Netanyahu digs for election victory

For the first time, Christians in Qatar worship in church

Meet South Africa’s top shark spotter

Claim in Africa About a Leader Is Recanted

Pope Benedict XVI joins fight over right to die of coma victim Eluana Englaro

Stepping Out From Putin’s Shadow

Families want answers from man who says he dissolved 300 people

If Spending Is Swift, Oversight May Suffer

Plan’s Pace Could Leave Billions Wasted

By Robert O’Harrow Jr.

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, February 9, 2009; Page A01

The Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan could end up wasting billions of dollars by attempting to spend money faster than an overburdened government acquisition system can manage and oversee it, according to documents and interviews with contracting specialists.

The $827 billion stimulus legislation under debate in Congress includes provisions aimed at ensuring oversight of the massive infusion of contracts, state grants and other measures. At the urging of the administration, those provisions call for transparency, bid competition, and new auditing resources and oversight boards.

‘We’re still in the pool – we can smell the fire’

• Final death toll may reach hundreds, say authorities

• Arsonists blamed as army called in to quell flames

Ellen Connolly in Sydney

The Guardian, Monday 9 February 2009

The death toll from the deadliest bushfires in Australia’s history could reach into the hundreds as the devastation is uncovered in the burning and blackened ruins of towns, the authorities warned last night.

Described as “hell on earth”, the fires left at least 108 dead, but police in Victoria said the final death toll would be much greater.

“I think it [the body count] will be up into the 100s … 200,” acting Sergeant Scott Melville, who has the job of dragging bodies out of charred vehicles and homes, told the Melbourne Age. “It’s like a friggin’ war zone up here, it’s like a movie scene.”

The army has been called in to help the thousands of exhausted firefighters who, for the third consecutive day, will try to put out 26 fires threatening suburbs near Melbourne.



Unemployment benefits safety net is fraying

As payments dry up, almost half of  11.6 million jobless don’t receive help

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The government safety net designed to protect laid-off workers from financial catastrophe is falling short, leaving nearly half the 11.6 million jobless Americans without unemployment benefits.

The shortcomings are fueling the recession as an increasing number of workers fall through the cracks and curtail spending. The trend highlights what economists say is a growing need for a 21st century makeover of a program started in the depths of the Great Depression.

Among the key problem areas:

There are many more part-time workers now than in 1935, but the program only covers those looking for full-time work.

Official Slogans for Comrade Valentine’s Day, 2009

Having read rjones2828 recent post with Trotsky in the title and noting its deserved persistence on the rec list, I offer another Bolshevik-flavored item, this one cross-posted from Fire on the Mountain, where the Comrade Valentine’s logo is posted and the polyglots among you will also find translations into Swedish, German, and Spanish.

Proletarians! Peasants! Oppressed People!

Fighters For Freedom & Justice Everywhere!

1. Let Us March Resolutely Forward, Rank In Rank,

Under The Heart-Shaped Crimson Banner of Comrade


2. Thoroughly Repudiate All Right Idealist Lines

Which Mystify And Commodify Love And Desire!!

Thoroughly Repudiate All Undialectical

Ultra-“Left” Lines Which Claim That Love And

Desire Undermine Class Solidarity!!

3. Temporary Setbacks Like Proposition 8 in

California, US of A, Cannot And Will Not Stem The

Tide Of History And The Mighty Forward Motion Of

LGBTQ People Advancing Toward Equality And


Freedom Road Socialist Organization /

Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad

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