April 19, 2009 archive

An Epistle To The Dharmaniacs From A Traveler

Dearest Dharmanic friends in the Blogosfera,

In 1999 I was traveling in India when Columbine happened.  Everywhere I went, and I went to some pretty remote places, people I met, well at least those who had televisions, wanted to know one thing.  That one thing, loosely translated, is WTF is wrong with the US anyway?  What kind of crazy batshit country produces these kinds of homicidal maniacs?  And why?  I didn’t have a good answer.  If we had a few beers or got to know each other a little, I would might have a chance to begin to try to explain it, but I couldn’t.  And that’s not because I’m inarticulate.  It’s because there is no satisfactory answer.

And now this.  Tuesday I’m traveling to Ireland.  And you know what?  Everywhere I go, and I will go to some pretty rural places, people I meet will want to know one thing.  That one thing, loosely translated, is WTF is wrong with the US anyway?  What kind of crazyland country has black sites, extralegal extraditions, Gitmo, Bagram, waterboarding, torture, Abu Ghraib AND, and this is the important AND, AND announces that nothing should be done about those who tortured or ordered torture or wrote bogus “legal” memos to justify torture?  And what kind of country that does all of that has the chutzpah (that is a revered Irish word) to lecture other countries about human rights? Isn’t that against the law in the US, to torture prisoners?  Isn’t that against International Law, to torture prisoners, and then also to fail or refuse to prosecute the torturers?  Isn’t that what the US prosecuted various Japanese soldiers for about 60 years ago?  Didn’t the US say that the excuse of “just following orders” just wasn’t good enough to keep you from hanging?  Trust me on this.  On Tuesday evening, when I am sitting comfortably in a pub in Dublin, bemused by my good fortune and friendships, slowly working my way out of jet lag and into a reverie about James Joyce and looking greedily at the bottom of a pint, somebody will smile and ask me the question. And, of course, I don’t have a good answer.  How could I? I’m not inarticulate. I will buy a round from time to time.  But for heaven’s sake, WTF am I supposed to say about this?  There really isn’t a satisfactory answer.

Well, Mr. My Friend, I could begin, that’s quite a question you’re asking me.  I’m as enraged and unhappy about this as anyone, well, almost anyone.  I’m not nearly as enraged and unhappy as the people who were tortured or their families, but aside from them.  I haven’t got a f*cking clue why immunity or lack of action this was so prominently announced, and while we’re at it, I have no idea WTF you or I or anybody else can do about it at this point other than raise a ruckus.  Not at all.  And, Mr. My Friend, a first step toward making a ruckus is that you really need to visit the torture petitions and sign them, one and all.  And then, and only after yo do that, let’s have another pint and see what kind of ruckus we can create.

Your pal,


cross posted from The Dream Antilles    

Rahm: NO Prosecutions? No Torture Until Next President?

At the very end of this video, Rahm states, as clearly as any politician ever states anything, that the executive branch will not seek prosecutions of anyone for torture.

He quotes the President. “This is a time for reflection, not retribution.”

Instead, we will reflect on the fact that America tortured people to death in a vast, well planned and organized official program of torture spanning years. And that there are NO consequences for that.

Let us reflect, then.

Not on President Obama’s actions, but on what this means for the future.

Simulposted at Dkos

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

Now with World and U.S. News.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Archaeologists hunt for Cleopatra’s tomb in Egypt

By Will Rasmussen, Reuters

Sun Apr 19, 9:11 am ET

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (Reuters) – High on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, buried deep under the crumbling limestone of a temple to the goddess Isis, archaeologists believe the body of Queen Cleopatra may lie.

The tomb of the Egyptian queen has never been found but archaeologists are discovering more evidence that Cleopatra’s priests carried her body to the temple after her suicide, where it could lie with her lover Marc Antony.

“This could be the most important discovery of the 21st century,” Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief archaeologist, told reporters on a tour of the temple on Sunday. “This is the perfect place for them to be hidden.”

A Disgrace. And A War Criminal.

When President’s Obstruct Justice They Disgrace Us All

oleeb at TPM, April 19, 2009, 1:06PM

President Obama’s morally indefensible decision to block investigations and prosecutions of those in the American government who planned and carried out torture both at home and abroad is a clear and disgraceful obstruction of justice.  When Republicans obstruct justice, Democrats are quick to criticize and rightfully so.  But legitimate criticism of obstruction of justice is based on opposition to shielding criminal actions and illegality, not because a Republican did it.  There is no excuse for allowing barbaric criminal acts to go unpunished no matter who committed them.

Let’s be clear.  The torture planned and carried out by the United States was illegal, aka a crime.  The investigation and potential prosecution of these crimes is a criminal and legal matter.  It is not a political matter and should not be treated as such.  The President makes a grave moral error by playing political games with such serious criminal activity.  War crimes are not political.  They shock the conscience of humanity because of their brutality and barbarism.  If these crimes are not heinous enough for the President to allow the law to be carried out and all the perpetrators from top to bottom made to answer for their crimes and complicity then what would it take for a crime to be heinous enough or so unspeakable that he would no longer be willing to obstruct justice in an effort to protect the criminals?


President Obama garnered the support and votes of millions of people because he said he would be different.  He pointedly marketed himself as not being tainted by a lifetime in Washington.  Well some people are quick learners as it appears our President is when it comes to turning a blind eye to war crimes.  By failing to do his duty and by obstructing the legal process he is obligated to carry forward, the President disgraces not only himself, but all Americans.

Regardless of party, any President who knowingly and willingly obstructs investigation into crimes that he and everyone on earth knows have occured and which we are by our own laws and by international law are obligated to investigate, is committing a crime himself.  If we are a nation of laws and not of men then now is the time to prove it.  the President needs to change course on this matter, but if he doesn’t we, as citizens need to do whatever we can to force him to do the right thing.  Those who do nothing contribute to this evil through our indifference.  No political rationale, no excuses, no fantasy about a secret strategy to do the right thing in the end excuses the President’s or the Attorney General’s immoral conduct as it relates to the war crimes we know were committed during the previous administration.

Remember, silence is consent.

Baghdad, City of Walls – Video Documentary

Crossposted from Antemedius

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is an award-winning photographer and journalist from Iraq.

He began documenting life on the streets of Baghdad in 2001 and, when the Iraq war started two years later, he reported for The Guardian newspaper on those parts of the Iraqi capital that were simply too dangerous for outsiders to cover. But growing violence forced him to leave the city.

In Baghdad, City of Walls Ghaith returns to the streets of a Baghdad now divided by security walls separating the city’s Sunni and Shia residents.

Thousands of homeless roam the streets, children grow up hating Americans, the dead are buried in improvised cemeteries and there is electricity for only three hours a day.

Ghaith’s ability to move around the city despite the dangers, gives us a unique insight into this Baghdad and to a story so far untold.

Baghdad, City of Walls aired in England in early April 2009. View the program in 4 parts below.

Baghdad, City of Walls, Part I:

Sunday Morning Not Funnies: Rahm Speaks

Or misspeaks, perhaps.

Or ABC News “This Week” online headline reads:

“Obama Administration: No Prosecution of Officials for Bush-Era Torture Policy

Rahm Emanuel on This Week

says: No Prosecution of Officials for Bush-Era Torture Policy.

another link, more general to the ABC show

GS: I asked [Rahm] Emanuel: “The president has ruled out prosecution for CIA officials who believed they were following the law. Does he believe that the officials who devised the policies should be immune from prosecution?

Recommend this diary and this one too.

News when I can get over my outrage.- ek hornbeck

Another narrative

Its been pretty clear to me for awhile now that I seem to be looking at the world through a different lens than many who blog here these days. I’ve been taking some time to think and reflect about that these last couple of weeks and have been helped in that process tremendously by a couple of diaries NCrissieB wrote at dkos titled Religion as Politics, Politics as Religion and Religion, Politics and Big Narratives. In these, she describes our tendency to create Big Narratives that provide “global, unifying lenses through which to view the events in our lives.” But here’s the problem:

…we meet difficulty when Big Narratives collide.  When two people or groups are constructing experience through different narratives, it seems as if they inhabit different worlds.  Each can easily think the other out of touch with reality, when the problem is that each is out of touch with the others’ narrative.  They’ve gone through life writing different stories, along different patterns, in part from events unique to their own experiences.  Even where the stories are “based on” common events, they are different stories, each with its own heroes, villains, victims, motivations, strategies, and resolutions. And while each offers a sense of completeness, none is truly complete.

One of the ways to explain both my experience as well as much of the discord we’ve seen at dkos and other blogs is that we’re having a clash of Big Narratives – none of which is complete. Of course there are other reasons why communication is difficult. But I think this is a big one.

So the question becomes, do we replicate so much of what happens with political discourse in this country and splinter off into groups of people who share a common Big Narrative? Or is it possible to discuss these differences in the hopes of either expanding our own narrative or at least limiting the derision of those who see things differently?

I thought I’d share some of the things my Big Narrative has led me to think about over this past week – things that look very different from what I’ve seen written about here – in hopes that you’ll see it as my incomplete narrative in progress.

Sunday music retrospective: Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin

Kosmic Blues

Little Girl Blue

Poverty causing people to snap, commit violence.

Cross-posted from www.Progressive-Independence.org

I was perusing a certain kind of ideological web site when I came upon the following article by Nicole Colson.

ONE AFTER another over the last month, the reports of terrible incidents of violence kept coming:

— A Vietnamese immigrant in Binghamton, N.Y., increasingly paranoid about police and upset after losing his job, kills 13 people at a center for immigrants before committing suicide.

— An Alabama man who had struggled to keep a job kills 10 people in a shooting spree before committing suicide.

— A Pittsburgh man, recently unemployed and afraid that the government would ban guns, opens fire on police responding to a domestic disturbance call, killing three.

These are just some of the recent eruptions of violence to make the headlines in U.S. newspapers. In the 30-day period between March 10 and April 10, there were at least nine multiple shootings across the U.S., claiming the lives of at least 58 people.

The individual motives and stories differ widely, but there’s a common thread among these incidents–the worsening economic crisis is becoming a factor in pushing some people who are already on the edge over it.

It seems nearly everyone is concerned with the ever-shrinking middle class, but almost no one is willing to discuss the social class those middlings are being tossed into: the POOR.  The platform, speaking for the poor, that John Edwards ran on during last year’s presidential election primaries resulted in his marginalization and eventual banishment from the public discourse as the elite weeded out those candidates who dare point out the disease of poverty.  But just because the messengers were silenced does not mean the larger problem went away; it continues to fester, with disastrous social consequences.

Iraq Vet in Pennsylvania Murders……

Was Radically Changed by War and PTSD

PTSD sufferers can’t always leave the war behind.

Sergeant Nicholas Horner and his Wife

Tragedy and war-inspired Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can meet like a head on crash when the nation’s care providers at the Veterans Administration, notorious for lies and deceit, deny our combat veterans the care they need.

This story of deadly, senseless shootings in Altoona, Pennsylvania April 6th is possibly the most tragic story I have ever reported, and if it isn’t, it is among the very worst.

Docudharma Times Sunday April 19

The Tea Parties

Have Come And Gone

Then The Torture Memo’s Were


More Whining Ensued

As Former Bush Administration Officals

Tried To Justify Their Actions  


Sunday’s Headlines:

Conservatives gaining sway on a liberal bastion

The children of Basra learn to live and hope

Secure Enough to Sin, Baghdad Is Back to Old Ways

Jacob Zuma’s ANC a target for South African satirists

Moroccan imams demand crackdown on drink

ETA military chief Jurdan Martitegi arrested in France

Berlin Wall given a facelift as freedom painters return

Juries return to Japanese courts after 66 years

Revolt stirs among China’s nuclear ghosts

Race a Dominant Theme at Summit

High Court Poised To Closely Weigh Civil Rights Laws

Cases Heard as Nation Debates Race

By Robert Barnes

Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Supreme Court has an opportunity to reaffirm or reshape the nation’s civil rights laws as it faces a rare confluence of cases over the next two weeks, including a high-profile challenge brought by white firefighters who claim they lost out on promotions because of the “color of their skin.”

The cases also touch on the Voting Rights Act, the need to provide English classes for immigrant children and, more tangentially, discriminatory mortgage lending.

The most emotionally charged case is from the New Haven, Conn., firefighters, whose complaints define the real-life quandary that sometimes accompanies government efforts to ensure racial equality.

China quake survivors still wait for word

Eleven months after the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province, the government has issued no official death toll and families yearn for DNA confirmation of their losses.

By Barbara Demick

April 19, 2009

Reporting from Hanwang, China — In the 11 months since China’s devastating earthquake, Wang Tingzhang and his wife have been transformed from docile, law-abiding citizens into defiant troublemakers, at least in the eyes of authorities.

Along the way, they’ve been pushed, punched, wiretapped, tailed and detained.

Their offense? Asking too many questions about what happened to their only child, an 18-year-old girl who was buried under the rubble of her high school in the May 12 earthquake here in Sichuan province.

In the early weeks after the magnitude 7.9 quake, Beijing was widely applauded for its efficiency, compassion and openness in handling China’s worst natural disaster in decades. But since then, the curtain has fallen.

Even the death toll is shrouded in secrecy. Although about 70,000 people are believed to have died, the government has yet to release an official toll. DNA testing that could identify thousands of victims has stalled, with no explanation from authorities.


F.B.I. and States Vastly Expand DNA Databases


Published: April 18, 2009

Law enforcement officials are vastly expanding their collection of DNA to include millions more people who have been arrested or detained but not yet convicted. The move, intended to help solve more crimes, is raising concerns about the privacy of petty offenders and people who are presumed innocent.

Until now, the federal government genetically tracked only convicts. But starting this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will join 15 states that collect DNA samples from those awaiting trial and will collect DNA from detained immigrants – the vanguard of a growing class of genetic registrants.

The F.B.I., with a DNA database of 6.7 million profiles, expects to accelerate its growth rate from 80,000 new entries a year to 1.2 million by 2012 – a 17-fold increase. F.B.I. officials say they expect DNA processing backlogs – which now stand at more than 500,000 cases – to increase.

Late Night Karaoke

Its Back

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