March 2, 2009 archive

Holder Steps In To End California Federal Death Penalty Case!

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

Well, well, well.  Maybe, just maybe, somebody has been listening to all of the complaining.

Cal Law reports:

New Attorney General Eric Holder has authorized a deal that could abruptly end a rare San Francisco death penalty trial only days after it began.

Not only does Holder’s reversal likely spare defendant Emile Fort his life, but it may signal a less aggressive approach to the death penalty in federal court. And it vindicates the local U.S. attorney’s office: Months ago federal prosecutors in San Francisco had recommended a 40-year plea bargain for Fort to their higher-ups in Washington – only to be rebuffed by Holder’s predecessor, Michael Mukasey.

The jury heard opening statements Wednesday in the case against Fort, an alleged member of San Francisco’s Down Below Gang who’s accused of three murders. Yet when defense lawyers arrived in Northern District Judge William Alsup’s court Friday morning – expecting another day of witness testimony – federal prosecutors announced their decision to deal, said Michael Thorman, one of Fort’s attorneys.

Alsup dismissed the jury and scheduled a special hearing for today. The defendant had the weekend to decide whether he wants to plead out, and Thorman anticipated that he would.

There you go.  No more Washington directed death penalty trial.  Fort can plead to 41 years (40 plus no credit for 16 months in state custody), which, needless to say, is a huge and probably entirely appropriate sentence.  And the federal death penalty is off the table.  Just like that.

I’m applauding.  This is definitely a step in the right direction.  It’s a step toward abolition.

h/t for Sam Pratt

Four at Four

  1. The NY Times reports the Dow Jones drops below 7,000 for the first time since October 1997. “The government on Monday morning agreed to provide another $30 billion to the insurance giant, American International Group, which also reported a $61.7 billion loss. On Friday, Washington took a larger stake in Citigroup.” The markets will now be looking to Friday’s unemployment report. “The unemployment rate is expected to rise to 8 percent, from 7.6 percent.”

  2. The Washington Post reports on why Tactical success means strategic defeat in Afghanistan.

    Tactically, the U.S.-led night raid in the village of Bagh-i-Soltan was a success. U.S. military officials said the dead man and an accomplice now in custody were bombmakers linked to recent insurgent attacks. They said that they had tracked the men for days and that one was holding an assault rifle when they shot him.

    Strategically, however, the incident was a disaster. Its most incriminating version — colored by villagers’ grief and anger, possibly twisted by Taliban propaganda and magnified by the growing influence of independent Afghan TV — spread far faster than U.S. authorities could even attempt to counter.

    Worse, it happened in an area where the Obama administration has just launched an expensive military push, focusing on regions near Kabul, the capital, where Islamist insurgents are trying to gain influence. Several U.S. bases have been set up in Logar and adjacent Wardak province, and 3,000 troops have arrived since January. Their mandate is to strengthen security, facilitate aid projects and good government, and swing local opinion against the insurgents.

    The CS Monitor adds Many in Afghanistan oppose Obama’s troop buildup plans.

    Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai says she has an innovative amendment to Washington’s planned injection of up to 30,000 new troops here.

    “Send us 30,000 scholars instead. Or 30,000 engineers. But don’t send more troops – it will just bring more violence.”

    Ms. Barakzai is among the growing number of Afghans – especially in the Pashtun south – who oppose a troop increase here, posing what could be the biggest challenge to the Obama administration’s stabilization strategy.

    “At least half the country is deeply suspicious of the new troops,” says Kabul-based political analyst Waheed Muzjda. “The US will have to wage an intense hearts-and-minds campaign to turn this situation around.”

    The lack of public support could provide fertile recruiting ground for the Taliban and hinder US operations, Mr. Muzjda says.

Four at Four continues with an attempt to move the U.S. Forest Service, video evidence at the Supreme Court, and China’s massive reservoirs plan.

Justice For Guantanamo Prisoner: Take Action

As explained in this diary, the Obama DOJ is delaying  habeas corpus for Mohammed Jawad, a 22-year old Afghan national captured as a teenager 6 years ago & imprisoned at Guantánamo. The Obama DOJ decided to not modify Bush’s motion to dismiss or hold in abeyance until after a military trial. Only Obama has halted all military proceedings, which may not recommence for at least 120 days.

Jawad is a good case for Obama to start distancing himself from Bush.  There is no allegation that Jawad is a member of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, that he committed terrorism or ever had critical intelligence.  This is the “first war crimes trial against a child soldier (pdf file) in the history of the civilized world.”  Yet, a military judge has already tossed the “torture-tainted evidence against Jawad” in a case of regular criminal justice crimes, like attempted murder.  

The 110mph Triple-C passenger train: Ohio, Now Is The Time

Burning the Midnight Oil for a Brawny Recovery

This information from the Midwest High Speed Rail Blog, Ohio Proposed Budget Includes Developing Passenger Rail Between 4-5 Cities (who themselves give a h/t to Transportation for America):

As part of a two-year, $7.5 billion proposed budget, Ohio plans to continue developing passenger rail service connecting four cities Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati (DispatchPolitics) – and possibly including a link to Toledo. Rail advocacy group All Aboard Ohio supports the so-called “3-C” plan and describes it here.

The Great Unraveling: CIA Destroyed NINETY TWO Torture Tapes

Now that the Bush Administration is out of power and can no longer protect itself, evidence of the many crimes it committed is starting to pour forth, and the concealment and cover-up of their criminal conspiracy to commit torture is starting to unravel.

Back in December of 2007, it was revealed that the CIA had destroyed two long videotapes….of the CIA torturing ‘terror suspects.’ The CIA initially denied the tapes existed, and then was forced to admit that it had destroyed them. At the time there was quite a stir…considering that Bush was still in power and the press was still in thrall to him…about this wanton destruction of evidence.

Today, due to the vigilance of the ACLU, it was revealed that the number was actually not two…but 92.

Via Raw Story…

According to the letter, which can be viewed here, (pdf) the CIA is now gathering information in response to the Court’s order to provide a list identifying and describing each of the destroyed records, as well as transcripts or summaries from any of the destroyed records and the names of any witnesses who may have viewed the videotapes before their destruction. The CIA requested that it be given until March 6 to provide the court with a timeline for its response to the requested information.

In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of videotapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all the requested records. That motion is still pending, according to a release from the ACLU.

From the NYT story linked above, we get some info on what the tapes contained and the rationale for destroying them…

The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terrorism suspects – including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody – to severe interrogation techniques. The tapes were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that video showing harsh interrogation methods could expose agency officials to legal risks, several officials said.

In a statement to employees on Thursday, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, said that the decision to destroy the tapes was made “within the C.I.A.” and that they were destroyed to protect the safety of undercover officers and because they no longer had intelligence value.

The destruction of the tapes raises questions about whether agency officials withheld information from Congress, the courts and the Sept. 11 commission about aspects of the program.

Back to Raw Story for the ACLU response…

Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU and counsel on the case said to Raw Story, “The large number of video tapes destroyed confirms that this was a systemic attempt to evade court orders.”

Singh added, “It’s about time, now that the court knows 92 tapes have been destroyed, that it hold the CIA accountable for the destruction of the tapes.”

We cannot at this point be sure whether the shocking number of destroyed tapes….destroyed evidence… represented coverage of already known torture sessions, or whether they represent 92 separate instances of torture against 92 different subjects. As is likely. But as more and more evidence emerges from under the cloud of the Bush Administrations cover-up efforts, we hope to find out.

This (still, even now) shocking revelation of conspiracy to torture and conspiracy to cover up torture comes just as The Senate Intelligence Committee is about to hold …secret….hearings on the actions of the CIA and the legality of the authorization it used to torture. To torture apparently vast numbers of suspects. SUSPECTS, who have of course never been convicted of a single crime. Suspects who now cannot ever be justly tried due to the fact that they were tortured. Suspects who by any civilized standards of The Rule Of Law, were innocent. Since they never were, and now never can be, proven guilty.

How many innocent people…men, women and children…did the CIA, private contractors and the military torture? With the the explicit and admitted authorizations of George Bush and Dick Cheney, and under orders from SecDef Donald Rumsfeld.

More Unraveling on the British complicity in the illegal invasion of Iraq below the fold.

Close Down the School of The Americas Mr President

Our very own, embedded within, Terrorist Training Camp, with known graduates who went on to exactly that, Criminal Terrorism, within their own countries against their own fellow citizens!

Vera Leone: “They may have changed the school’s name, but we are still seeing the same violent results”

Pablo Ruiz: “US tax dollars are used to train Latin American soldiers how to oppress their own people”

I Will Neither Tweet Nor Twitter!

There is a new (well, not really that new) tool for social networking that the Dog is sure that everyone here has heard about, Twitter. This service is based on the idea that you would want or need to communicate with your community in bursts of text that are restricted to 140 characters long. This is not a system that the Dog will ever, under any foreseeable circumstances use.

A Missed Opportunity? Obama’s Economic Plan

Crossposted from our New Media site Antemedius: still under construction, but come on over and kick the tires!

Political Economist F William Engdahl is author of the book “A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order.” Mr Engdhahl has written on issues of energy, politics and economics for more than 30 years, beginning with the first oil shock in the early 1970s. Mr. Engdahl contributes regularly to a number of publications including Asia Times Online, Asia, Inc, Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Foresight magazine; Freitag and ZeitFragen newspapers in Germany and Switzerland respectively.

Speaking with Paul Jay of The Real News about President Obama’s stimulus package and newly announced budget, Engdahl says the fundamental causes of the economic crisis were missed, and opines that until President Obama reinstates Glass-Steigel restraints on banking which were repealed by the Clinton administration in 1999 and begins to re-regulate the financial system, there will not be a flow of healthy credit into the healthy economy.

Real News – March 1, 2009 – 11 min 52 sec

Taking on the banking cabal

Engdahl: President Obama has left intact a brain dead banking system that is out of control

Let the Air Out of Their Tires


Okay’s here’s the deal, see, I was reading this story here; a Bloomberg exclusive:

While youths in Athens protest by throwing Molotov cocktails, in Paris by toppling barricades, and in Budapest by hurling eggs at politicians, protesters in Berlin rage at their economic plight by targeting the most expensive cars — symbols of German wealth and power.

And it got me to thinking. (Run for the hills!)

McCain Neo-Con Advisor hearts Obama Iraq Plan

Randy Scheunemann was director of foreign policy and national security for the McCain-Palin campaign.  He was the chief foreign policy advisor for John McCain.  And he has a history.  Scheunemann served as a director of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

In January 1998, PNAC published an open letter to President Bill Clinton arguing that “containment” of Iraq “has been steadily eroding,” jeopardizing the region and, potentially, beyond. “Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate.”

He founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in 2002; director of foreign policy and national security for the McCain-Palin campaign

He now desribes the Obama plan as one John McCain might have formulated:

Now, we should all hope President Obama continues to listen to Gens. David Petraeus and Ray Odierno, rebuffs his left-wing critics and stays the course with an Iraq policy John McCain might have formulated.


Hmmm.  More, after the fold.

Open Thread


Beware the Ides of Thread!

Docudharma Times Monday March 2

To Big To Fail

How Much More

Must The U.S. Taxpayer Give?

Monday’s Headlines:

Older soldiers find a niche in new Army

Summit fails to heal EU’s divisions over recession

EU leaders warned to beware new ‘Iron Curtain’

Chinese bidder can’t pay, won’t pay for YSL auction statues

Bangladesh: mutiny dealt serious blow to country’s security

Guinea-Bissau military chief killed in grenade attack

As Once-Admired Schools Wither, Zimbabwe’s Young Are Left Idle

Israeli limits stymie Gaza rebuilding

Despite hopes of Hollywood visit, Iran’s leaders stick to the same script

A side of Cancun not seen during spring break

U.S. Is Said to Offer $30 Billion More to Help A.I.G.

The United States is planning its fourth round of aid to the American International Group, the giant insurer. The government already owns nearly 80 percent of the insurer’s holding company.


Published: March 1, 2009

The federal government agreed Sunday night to provide an additional $30 billion in taxpayer money to the American International Group and loosen the terms of its huge loan to the insurer, which is preparing to report a $62 billion loss on Monday, the biggest quarterly loss in history, people involved in the discussions said.

The intervention would be the fourth time that the United States has had to step in to help A.I.G., the giant insurer, avert bankruptcy. The government already owns nearly 80 percent of the insurer’s holding company as a result of the earlier interventions, which included a $60 billion loan, a $40 billion purchase of preferred shares and $50 billion to soak up the company’s toxic assets.

Israel may face war crimes trials over Gaza

• Court looks at whether Palestinians can bring case

• International pressure grows over conflict

Peter Beaumont and agencies

The Guardian, Monday 2 March 2009

The international criminal court is considering whether the Palestinian Authority is “enough like a state” for it to bring a case alleging that Israeli troops committed war crimes in the recent assault on Gaza.

The deliberations would potentially open the way to putting Israeli military commanders in the dock at The Hague over the campaign, which claimed more than 1,300 lives, and set an important precedent for the court over what cases it can hear.

As part of the process the court’s head of jurisdictions, part of the office of the prosecutor, is examining every international agreement signed by the PA to decide whether it behaves – and is regarded by others – as operating like a state.



Mine waste trips up Alaska gold rush

A plan to dump mine tailings into a lake, taking advantage of a Bush administration regulatory change, is before the Supreme Court. Environmentalists say it could gut the Clean Water Act.

By Kim Murphy

March 2, 2009

Reporting from Berners Bay, Alaska — Sitting like a turquoise gem in a bowl of hemlock, Sitka spruce and ice, Berners Bay has long been a jewel of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

In the spring, swarms of tiny eulachon rush in to spawn, and the bay floods with hundreds of killer whales, humpback whales and sea lions in hot pursuit, along with eagles and seabirds by the thousands. Fishermen flock to its herring, salmon and Dungeness crab. Its chilly, tranquil waters are a favorite destination for kayakers.

Berners Bay also has become one of the epicenters of a new Alaska gold rush. High in the snowy peaks at the top of the bay, miners struck an estimated 1.4 million ounces of gold — a prize that is looking better every day as investors flee the stock market.

An Idaho-based mining company has pledged to rescue southeast Alaska’s crippled timber and fishing economy by opening an industrial-scale mine above the bay. The problem is how to do it.

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