February 26, 2009 archive

Four at Four

  1. The Hill reports Some Democrats question need for 50,000 troops in Iraq. President “Obama is expected to announce a 19-month plan for withdrawing American soldiers that would leave up to 50,000 troops in the country to advise Iraqi security forces and protect the embassy and other strategic interests.” Obama will also “ask Congress for an additional $75.5 billion this year to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

    Speaking on the redeployment, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “It has to be done responsibly, we all agree… But 50,000 is more than I would have thought. We await the justification for why that many are needed.”

  2. The LA Times reports President Obama unveils $3.55 trillion budget plan for for fiscal 2010. “We need to be honest with ourselves about what costs are being racked up, because that’s how we’ll come to grips with the hard choices that lie ahead,” Obama said.

    Obama is asking for a $250 billion contingency reserve for the financial black hole. “Budget director Peter Orszag insisted that the ‘place holder’ was only a contingency in case economic conditions worsen further.”

    The Pentagon is asking for $663.7 billion, up from $654.4 billion in this fiscal year, including $130 billion in war funding. What a waste of this nation’s money.

    The NY Times adds the White House budget deficit forecast is optimistic.

    The forecasts are also founded on optimistic assumptions that the recession will end by next year and quickly produce stronger growth than was seen in the last decade. After the economy shrinks this year, the Obama team assumes that the gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, will increase by 3.2 percent next year and then 4 percent or more the following three years, a rate nearly twice the average of the Bush years.

Four at Four continues with the biggest threats to the United States and business, and Bill Holm.

Truth And Reconciliation Just Won’t Do

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

The New York Times reports that finally Britain, despite five years of denials, now admits that it was involved in illegal renditions extraditions kidnappings.  That’s not much of a surprise.  Britain is fessing up to two of these.  Nobody really thinks that is all there were.

Britain’s defense minister made an unusual public apology on Thursday, admitting Britain had taken part in the “rendition” of suspects detained in Iraq after denying it for years.

In a lengthy statement to parliament, Defense Secretary John Hutton confirmed that Britain handed over two suspects captured in Iraq in 2004 to U.S. custody and that they were subsequently transferred to Afghanistan, breaching U.S.-British agreements.

The Ministry of Defense has been repeatedly asked over the past five years about its involvement in rendition, the unlawful transfer of suspects to a third country, and consistently denied it played any role in the U.S.-administered program.

“I regret that it is now clear that inaccurate information on this particular issue has been given to the House by my department on a small number of occasions,” Hutton said. “I want to apologize to the House for these errors.”

“Inaccurate information” is diplomatic speak for lies.  “These errors” is diplomatic speak for five years of continuous lies.

According to the Times, the two men were captured by British troops in Iraq in February 2004 and were flown to Afghanistan, where they remain in U.S. custody.  And where, parenthetically, the Obama Administration says that they are not permitted to have access to the US Courts to contest the legality of their detention by filing habeas corpus.

Reprieve says about all of this:

“For years now the British government has been tossing us miserable scraps of information about its involvement in illegal renditions in Pakistan, Diego Garcia and now Afghanistan,” said Clara Gutteridge, an investigator with Reprieve, a charity that campaigns for the release of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

“Enough is enough. The British government must come clean and reveal exactly who it has captured, what has been done to them and where they are now,” she said. “I’m afraid this is only the tip of the renditions iceberg.”

Enough really is enough.  The US too needs to come clean.  And having a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in which those who have committed these illegal acts, tell their stories and eventually receive immunity is just unacceptable.  It is not how the US should tell the story of its extensive human rights violations.  There need to be a criminal investigations.  And there need to be prosecutions.  And there needs to be an end of secrecy about crimes.

Anything less, after all of the lying and all of the illegal acts, and all of the contorted, disingenuous legal mumbo jumbo, falls far, far short.

What Do You Know About Torture?

Last night in a thread over on Dkos about Holder actually praising Gitmo, a long time Kossak, and thus presumably one of the most informed people in the country, expressed the following thought…

“I had not read several of the links in the comments. Despicable crimes were committed routinely.”

Which brought home a fact that we have been alluding to a bit lately. That if the American people knew what had been done in their names, they would be far more angry and thus more eager for justice to be served. For those who tortured in their name. Routinely and despicably.

It seems that through the woefully inadequate coverage of what has actually happened under the formalized Bush Torture Network, most folks have very little appreciation of the scope and horror of what took place. It occurs to me that with the coverage  we have gotten, most Americans…if they are aware of torture at all….could easily think that the Bush torturers were only guilty of waterboarding the three high profile Al Qaeda members that they have admitted torturing.

I think it is safe to say that most Americans do not have any idea as to what has taken place. And that they have not connected the dots among the few things they have been allowed to know. For instance that the routine torture at Abu Ghraib was not the work of a few bad apples, but part of an organized campaign of torture that was purposefully and systematically exported to Iraq and Afghanistan after being tested at Gitmo.

Or that sexual torture and sodomy with objects was routine.

Or that women and children have almost certainly been tortured.

Or that perhaps hundreds of ‘detainees’ have been tortured to death.

Maybe they have forgotten what the Toguba report on torture at Abu Ghraib outlined regarding the sytematic, routine and approved torture regimen there.

…Intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

a. Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

b. Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;

c. Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;

d. Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

e. Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;

f. Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

g. Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

h. Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture; …

j. Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female soldier pose for a picture;

k. A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;

l. Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee …

These findings are amply supported by written confessions provided by several of the suspects, written statements provided by detainees, and witness statements. …

In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses (ANNEX 26):

a. Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;

b. Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;

c. Pouring cold water on naked detainees;

d. Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;

e. Threatening male detainees with rape; …

g. Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.”

And if they have, have they made the connection that this was NOT an aberration, but part of a thoroughly thought out, planned, tested, an approved standard operating procedure of institutionalized torture? That this was not just done at Abu Ghraib, but also at Gitmo and at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan? For years and years and years.

And do they know that when the Bush torturers wanted to do something even WORSE than what occurred at Gitmo they would fly them to one of the MANY Black Sites that the Organized Torture Network had established around the world, for even more secrecy?

Do they know that the shocking and horrifying pictures that we all saw from Abu Ghraib were actually the mildest and least shocking of the documented evidence? And that the ‘really bad stuff’ of what their government did to their fellow human beings there has been withheld after sickening the Senators and Congressmen who were allowed to view them? That the really bad stuff included the pictures of Muslim women and children being tortured, and almost certainly sexually tortured?

Do they know that Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s two young children were seized …by the United States Government…. and used to threaten him? Do they know that the whereabouts of these children are still unknown?

Have they read the testimony of the Gitmo prison guard?

Do they know that the recently released detainee Binyam Mohammed was genitally mutilated as part of his torture? The same Binyam Mohammed that was just released after seven years of illegal detention and torture with no charges ever being filed against him? As has been the case with hundreds of other torture victims? That there is no legal proof that these living breathing human beings ever did anything wrong at all….and yet they were locked away and tortured for year after year. Even though by all civilized standards of law, they were innocent of any crime.

Do they know how many people involved in the United States organized, planned and authorized torture program have resigned in protest?

Do they know that perhaps hundreds of young men and women who volunteered to serve their country were trained to be torturers? Were MADE INTO torturers and accessories to torture by their own government?

Do they know the damage that being made into torturers has been done to those people? Do they know the damage that has been done to the thousands of people the United States has tortured? To their families? Do they care about the victims of torture under the planned, authorized and systematic policy of torture under George Bush?

And do they know that the number one cause of young Muslim men taking up arms against the United States is the planned, authorized and systematic policy of torture under George Bush?

And do they know that there are even more shocking things that even the few of us who do have the publicly available facts don’t know, but that Senator Whitehouse, as a member of both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, “is

privy to information about interrogations he can’t yet share…”


And do they know that we have only the word of the very people who have run this program for nearly a decade now that it has stopped, despite what Obama may say from the podium about America torturing?

I don’t think they do.

And without investigations, they never will.


Oh, and do they know that so far each and every Bush policy in the Global War of Terror that has come up in the courts so far has been supported by Eric Holder’s DOJ?


Pelosi: 50,000 Residual Troops Left in Iraq is Too Many

Thank you, Madam Speaker.  People have been critical of Speaker Pelosi, and sometimes rightfully so for putting impeachment off the table, but on issue after issue, e.g., Iraq, raising taxes on the wealthy, ending Bush’s tax cuts now, she is to the Left of President Obama.

I agree with her here.  50,000 troops, including combat troops that are being reclassified as “advisory personell or some such bs, is too much.  It’s time to end the American Empire.  We simply cannot afford it as people lose homes and jobs.  It ain’t right.  No more blood for empire.    


MADDOW: Fifty thousand seem like an awful large residual force?

PELOSI: It does. It does. I completely agree with that. And I don’t – the president hasn’t made the statement. … And I don’t know the justification is for a presence of 50,000 troops in Iraq. I do think that there is a need for some, and I don’t know that all of them have to be in the country. They can be platformed outside. … I would think one-third of that, maybe 20,000, maybe more than one-third, 15,000 or 20,000.

About that ‘liberal bias’ in the media…

Oh, it exists, all right.  It is very, very real.  But it is the exact opposite of what the whining republicans and their enablers claim.  The bias actually works in favor of Republicans.

That is the finding of two Indiana University professors who analyzed network coverage of the 1992-2004 presidential campaigns.  

Maria Elizabeth Grabe and Erik Bucy, both associate professors in the Department of Telecommunications of IU’s College of Arts and Sciences, report their findings in their book, Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections (Oxford University Press).

“We don’t think this is journalists conspiring to favor Republicans. We think they’re just so beat up and tired of being accused of a liberal bias that they unknowingly give Republicans the benefit in coverage,” said Grabe, who also is a research associate in political science at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. “It’s self-censorship that journalists might be imposing on themselves.”

Wow.  Lenin and Goebbels were right.  Lies are mighty powerful things, and if you repeat them often enough they become true, or at least are accepted as so – with the added benefit of making those who don’t believe the CW suspect.  

Those are some damned fine role models you have decided to emulate, GOP.  Fine roll models indeed.

Let’s Sue The Federal Government About Torture!

Many of you will know that one of the Dog’s major issues is torture, it repercussions on us as a society and the absolute need to investigate and prosecute those that ordered it and those that carried it out. If you are interested in what the Dog has said on this before, you can read about it here, here and here.  

You Might Be An American If

The email that started it.

You might be a Taliban If.

1. You refine heroin for a living, but you have a moral objection to beer.

2. You own a $3,000 machine gun and $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can’t afford shoes.  

3. You have more wives than teeth.  

4. You wipe your butt with your bare hand, but consider bacon “unclean.”  

5. You think vests come in two styles: bullet-proof and suicide.  

6. You can’t think of anyone you haven’t declared Jihad against.  

7. You consider television dangerous, but routinely carry explosives in your clothing.  

8. You were amazed to discover that cell phones have uses other than setting off roadside bombs.

9. You have nothing against women and think every man should own at least one.  

10. You’ve always had a crush on your neighbor’s goat

You Might be an American if.

1. You have 47 electronic ways to communicate but can’t name your next door neighbor.

2. You can watch 300 channels of HD TV but nothing worthwhile is on.

3. You have had more wives than teeth.

4. You funded the third world’s industrial gold rush and given away your technology and now wonder why there are no jobs.

5. You point to Austrailia and say we should invade Iran next.

6. You have a War On Drugs but your TeeVee tells you to ask your doctor for.

7. Both you and your wife work 60 hours(if you still have jobs) to afford your child’s day care.

8. You can follow the logic of, the hijackers came from Saudi Arabia but the pipeline was in Afghanistan.

9. You can’t think of anyone who is not a “Terrorist.”

10. You claim to be the Land of the Free yet have the world’s largest percentage of people in jail.

Nasty, even for me.  


Docudharma Times Thursday February 26

Bobby Jindal

And The

Sheriff He Never Met

So How About Those Boats

Thursday’s Headlines:

The mood out there? Dread, and resolve too

Amnesty offer to Bangladeshi border guards after mutiny over pay

Pakistan in turmoil after Sharif brother is kicked out

Mugabe splashes out on birthday bash as cholera spirals out of control

Kenyan troops trained by British are condemned for ‘death’ campaign

Lipstick revolution: Iran’s women are taking on the mullahs

Israel blocks pasta shipment to Gaza, and tensions boil

Nine die as aircraft crashes near Amsterdam

Recession? War? Gulf developer continues massive Georgia luxury project.

Mexican town fed up with violence turns to army

In President’s Budget Plan, Broad Agenda and a Few Gaps

By Lori Montgomery

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, February 26, 2009; Page A01

President Obama’s spending plan is built on the assumption that lawmakers can resolve some hugely contentious issues — and it relies on a few well-worn budget tricks.

The request he will deliver to Congress today proposes to provide what administration officials are calling a “down payment” on a major expansion of health care coverage for the uninsured. It identifies $634 billion in tax increases and spending cuts to cover the cost of part of the program, but does not say how the administration hopes to raise the rest of the money — hundreds of billions of dollars more. “TBD” has been penciled into categories for cost savings and benefit reductions.

Why 88 Arab homes received eviction notices

Israel has plans to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem to make way for a tourist site. Activists say it’s a demographic play that amounts to ethnic cleansing.

By Ilene R. Prusher | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

from the February 26, 2009 edition

JERUSALEM – Israel plans to demolish 88 homes in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, to make way for a new archaeological park, adding new fuel the slow-burning dispute over Jerusalem.

A variety of neighborhood activists, Muslim leaders in Jerusalem, and even figures from the Palestinian Authority (PA) held a press conference Wednesday, saying that Israel was trying to minimize the Arab presence in this city claimed by both Palestinians and Jews as their capital. They say such a move amounts to ethnic cleansing.

“They have made a decision to clear out 88 houses, and with about three families living in each of these houses, we’re looking at the eviction of about 1,500 people. But people in Silwan are clinging to their land and will not leave, despite the eviction orders,” says Adnan Husseini, who is PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s adviser on Jerusalem Affairs.

Israel’s Jerusalem municipality, which has been mulling over this plan for four years, says that the homes were built without permits in an area not designated for residential use.



U.S. Is a Vast Arms Bazaar for Mexican Cartels


Published: February 25, 2009

PHOENIX – The Mexican agents who moved in on a safe house full of drug dealers last May were not prepared for the fire power that greeted them.

When the shooting was over, eight agents were dead. Among the guns the police recovered was an assault rifle traced back across the border to a dingy gun store here called X-Caliber Guns.

Now, the owner, George Iknadosian, will go on trial on charges he sold hundreds of weapons, mostly AK-47 rifles, to smugglers, knowing they would send them to a drug cartel in the western state of Sinaloa. The guns helped fuel the gang warfare in which more than 6,000 Mexicans died last year.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning



Not a pretty girl

nor an attractive woman

just a hope

of being

a handsome

old lady

I have been

resigned to this

for decades

But quality lies

in the heart

and the mind

not on the skin

Your proclamation

of love and support

for transfolk

rings as hollow

as hollow can be

Ugly lives down deep

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–January 16, 2009

Late Night Karaoke

Nikai Thursday

The Stars Hollow Gazette

When I was younger I used to go to camp in the summer.

It was a sleep over camp and as you got older your living conditions got progressively more primitive.  It’s kind of creepy to think about living in a hut with only 3 walls.  I suppose actually it was so they could keep closer track of us.

There were all kinds of activities you could pick and choose from, like Arts and Crafts (enamel work is kind of fun) and Tennis (I suck).  Being a swimmer of some accomplishment I gravitated toward waterfront activities like Boating (Row Boats), Canoeing, and Sailing (Sunfish).

My first boating experience was not very successful.  I drew the one with open oarlocks and having no clue on how to work them the oars kept popping out.  I’d call it a cruel joke on the counselor’s part except that they were pretty much given out on a first come first served basis.

The most desirable ones in my eyes were the open ones with pins through the oars because I didn’t like bothering with feathering.  As I got into the advanced classes of course I had to demonstrate my mastery of the technique, but to this day I prefer the pinned ones if only for the fact that you don’t have to deal with the locks slipping down to the blade.

Likewise the Sunfish were tricky too.  The lake was pretty much in a bowl and when you got in the lee of the hills and trees there was no telling which direction the wind would come from and you’d usually end up rowing yourself out with the tiller.  One amenity they had that I missed later in life with my family’s own Sailfish was a beach to run the boat up on when you were done so you could stay dry (unless you capsized of course).  We don’t have much of a beach at the Lake House so we have to moor the boat.  You swim or you don’t sail.

I also took some of the advanced swimming courses like snorkeling.  The big payoff for successfully completing that is they had a surface compressor with a face mask and tube that would let you go about as deep as the lake got.  I never really got a chance to use it though, the mask didn’t fit me very well and I couldn’t deal with the water pouring in from the sides.

Another thing I never did was the Gold swim.  If you were a good enough swimmer that they didn’t need to worry about you much you got a green tag to put up on the buddy board, but if you were especially ambitious several times a summer they’d take you out to a big sloping rock at one end of the lake and have you swim behind a Row Boat out to a stripe they had painted on a cliff face about a mile away.  If you made it you got a Gold tag.

Special huh?

Monster swimmers would go for double and triple Gold (not nearly as cool because all you got was a white tag with a 2 or a 3 on it), but I never tried it at all even though I’d do swim practices in the winter that were up to 10 miles long when our coach was feeling particularly sadistic after we lost a meet.

I’ve just never liked swimming in open water that much.  The darkness of it and not being able to see the bottom gives me the sensation of falling and I have terrible acrophobia.  It’s kind of odd than when I was life guarding I’d get assigned to the most dangerous of the two natural water parks in town instead of any of the 5 pools.  Oh well, at least I could shack up with my girl friend after work.

Marx becomes a Marxist

Original article, subheaded Karl Marx developed his ideas in an era of when young people were dedicating their lives to a struggle for new rights and freedoms. Brian Jones examines Marx’s revolutionary ideas in this second of three articles, via socialistworker.org:

HOW DID Karl Marx become a Marxist? Marx developed his idea not just through study–although he was a voracious reader (really, the word “voracious” doesn’t begin to touch it). Marx’s Marxism is really the theoretical product of his practical efforts to build a movement for radical change, and his observations of struggles taking place around him.

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