May 14, 2009 archive

Quote for Discussion: Judge Learned Hand

Spirit of Liberty, 1944

We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion.

…What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws, and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few – as we have learned to our sorrow.

What then is the spirit of liberty?

I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of those men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interest alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten – that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side-by-side with the greatest. And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be – nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it – yet in the spirit of America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all; in the spirit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in that spirit of liberty and of America so prosperous, and safe, and contented, we shall have failed to grasp its meaning, and shall have been truant to its promise, except as we strive to make it a signal, a beacon, a standard to which the best hopes of mankind will ever turn; In confidence that you share that belief, I now ask you to raise your hand and repeat with me this pledge:

I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands–One nation, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Judge Learned Hand

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports Barack Obama’s climate change bill is weakened, but still intact. The legislation was “weakened in a number of key areas by the compromises with the Democratic hold-outs” in oil and coal producing states.

    In its current form, the bill now calls for a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020. That falls below the original target of 20%…

    The new version of the bill also lowers the bar for electricity companies to generate a portion of their power from renewable sources, such as wind or solar. The first version had set a standard of 25% by 2025.

    That has now been watered down to 15% by 2020, and as low as 12% for some parts of the country that have not developed renewable energy.

    Meanwhile, The Guardian adds Senate Republicans block Obama’s nominee for top environmental post. “David Hayes, an environmental lawyer, fell three votes short of the 60 needed for confirmation as the deputy interior secretary… It was the first time an Obama nominee has fallen on the Senate floor, in a defeat engineered by Republicans from oil-rich states.”

Four at Four continues with an update from Pakistan, Obama’s pictures reversal, and Russia hints at an Arctic war.

    America’s Little PR Problem


    Wow, this Oval Office is pretty cool.

    Hey, guys, listen up. We’ve got a little PR problem. Not a big one. Hey, we’re America, right? We’re too big to fail. We can weather this storm. This wasn’t on our watch. But, guys, listen up, we cannot release those pictures from Abu Ghraib. And it’s not about endangering the troops, though use that old canard if you want, what endangers our troops is being a troop in occupied territory, but guys, Mr. President, please, these photos, raping kids in front of their parents and the like, well, sirs, it just wouldn’t go down well with, well, with anyone with a conscience.

    Lawrence Wilkerson Drops an Iraq-Torture Bombshell

    On Wednesday, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson dropped a bombshell (h/t Heather):

        what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 — well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion — its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.

       So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee “was compliant” (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa’ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, “revealed” such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

       There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just “committed suicide” in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi….)

    MORE: by Bob Fertik

    America sinks into evil as Obama smiles

    The Obama personality cult took a while to firmly establish itself, but now that it has become entrenched, Obama is free to continue the evil practices of the Bush administration: endless war; secret government; and neo-feudal wealth redistribution. The reason Obama gave for blocking the release of torture evidence (protecting the troops) is exactly the same reason Bush and Rumsfeld used when attempting to block the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs. It is a shabby rationalization intended to protect torturers.

    Reasoned criticism and moral outrage roll off Obama’s teflon coating just the way they did when Reagan was President. Nothing sticks, and the buck never stops at the White House. Obama could fly down to Guantanamo and personally execute one of the prisoners tomorrow, and some zombie on DKos would praise his statesmanlike action. The Obama government is now even more dangerous than the Bush regime, because the public enthusiastically supports the continuation of Bush policies by America’s new super-salesman. America is sinking deeper into evil as Obama smiles and the mob applauds.

    * Obama is actively waging two hugely expensive and destructive wars while INCREASING the defense budget.

    * Obama is blocking the prosecution of torturers, past and present, in the US government.

    * Obama is enriching and aggrandizing the Wall Street firms that caused the financial crisis.

    * Obama is preserving a profit-driven health care system that puts the interests of corporate health care “providers” above those of citizens.

    * Obama is using secrecy, disinformation, and propaganda as the primary tools of his administration, while steadily breaking his campaign promises of “transparency” in government.

    How much deeper do we have to sink into evil before the American people demand honest and accountable leadership? When will this darkness end?

    Not one more death.

    If the release of the torture photos causes even one death, that is one death too many.

    It is my fervent hope that insanity of the Bush/Cheney years doesn’t cause any one else to die.

    It is a fervent, wishful, unrealistic hope.

    I don’t think my thoughts on these issues are all that earth-shaking, but there are many, many people who are consistent with their efforts to bring awareness to these events, events which, to me, are all part of the insanity of war.

    JimStaro is one. Please read his work.  Thanks.

    Not one more death.

    If the release of the torture photos causes even one death, that is one death too many.

    It is my fervent hope that insanity of the Bush/Cheney years doesn’t cause any one else to die.

    It is a fervent, wishful, unrealistic hope.

    I don’t think my thoughts on these issues are all that earth-shaking, but there are many, many people who are consistent with their efforts to bring awareness to these events, events which, to me, are all part of the insanity of war.

    JimStaro is one. Please toss a pony into his tip jars, which appear here every week.

    Docudharma Times Thursday May 14

     I mean, one of the reasons

    these techniques have survived for about 500 years

    is apparently they work.  

    Sen. Lindsey Graham Moron(R-SC)

    Thursday’s Headlines:

    Unease Grows for Democrats Over Security

    Pakistan’s displacement camps: A study in contrasts

    Burma’s Suu Kyi faces trial over American intruder

    Day of the lentil burghers: Ghent goes veggie to lose weight and save planet

    Le fin for the original French pop idol

    Pope Benedict XVI calls for Palestinian state on visit to refugee camp

    Spike in suicide attacks: Is Al Qaeda in Iraq coming back?

    Obama Urges Rules on Investments Tied to Crisis


    Published: May 13, 2009

    WASHINGTON – In its first detailed effort to overhaul financial regulations, the Obama administration on Wednesday sought new authority over the complex financial instruments, known as derivatives, that were a major cause of the financial crisis and have gone largely unregulated for decades.

    The administration asked Congress to move quickly on legislation that would allow federal oversight of many kinds of exotic instruments, including credit-default swaps, the insurance contracts that caused the near-collapse of the American International Group.

    The Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, said the measure should require swaps and other types of derivatives to be traded on exchanges or clearinghouses and backed by capital reserves, much like the capital cushions that banks must set aside in case a borrower defaults on a loan.

    Mumbai terror group exploits refugee crisis

    Pakistan comes under fire for failure to shut ‘charity’

    By Andrew Buncombe and Omar Waraich in Mardan, Pakistan

    Thursday, 14 May 2009

    An Islamist charity accused of links to the militant fundamentalists blamed for the Mumbai terror attacks has resurfaced at the centre of the aid effort to help hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Pakistan’s war on the Taliban.

    Six months after Pakistan, under international pressure, outlawed the charity said to be a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), The Independent has discovered that scores of volunteers from the charity are openly working to ferry refugees from the edge of the conflict zone to emergency camps and hospitals. They are also providing food, water and first aid.

    Despite a government undertaking that it had cracked down on Jamaat-ud-Dawa – described as the charitable arm of LeT – and pledged that it would not allow it to operate under a different name, volunteers say they are providing crucial services in an area where the government’s resources are stretched.


    As Cheney Seizes Spotlight, Many Republicans Wince

    By Dan Balz

    Washington Post Staff Writer

    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    As vice president, Richard B. Cheney famously spent much of the past eight years in undisclosed locations and offering private advice to President George W. Bush. But past was not prologue.

    Today Cheney is the most visible — and controversial — critic of President Obama’s national security policies and, to the alarm of many people in the Republican Party, the most forceful and uncompromising defender of the Bush administration’s record. His running argument with the new administration has spawned a noisy side debate all its own: By leading the criticism, is Cheney doing more harm than good to the causes he has taken up and to the political well-being of his party?

    His defenders believe he has sparked a discussion of vital importance to the safety of the country, and they hold up Obama’s reversal of a decision to release photos of detainee abuse as a sign that Cheney is having an effect.

    When We Rise

    Muse in the Morning

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
    Muse in the Morning

    An Opened Mind XXXVII

    Art Link



    At some instant

    one day

    the words will cease to flow

    their creator (or vessel)

    having passed through

    the Door

    between herenow

    and therethen

    The words left behind

    the ideas they expressed

    the actions they instigated

    will be all

    that remains

    to weigh the meaning

    of this particular existence

    Regret is extinguished

    if the words

    have expressed


    concern and care

    and a life lived well

    –Robyn Serven

    –September 21, 2007

    Late Night Karaoke

    Nikai Thursday

    Gov’t was torturing while troops lacked armor protection?

    (Cross-posted at DailyKos and my blog)

    I am asking. I’m not sure whether this is a case of “correlation doesn’t equal causation” or not. Either way, I want to put this question out there, not as a Fox News-ish “some people say” but rather an honest question.

    Right in the midst of the 2004 election, there was a major issue involving Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who was being “hounded” (read: asked questions) by members of the military, who were not being equipped properly, and so lots of them were being blown up and killed.

    Obviously this isn’t something I’m just throwing out here. I’ve got some things to back up my question. Let’s start with 2001.

    According to this timeline of the torture policy (which you might want to read before this post:)

    September 17: Bush gives the CIA the authority to kill, capture, and detain al Qaeda operatives. The CIA lays plans for secret overseas prisons and special interrogations


    December: The Department of Defense general counsel’s office solicits information (PDF) on detainee “exploitation” from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), which advises on counterinterrogation techniques known as SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape).

    July 2002: Richard Shiffrin, a counsel in the Department of Defense, inquires about SERE techniques — initially designed to help U.S. soldiers captured abroad. Members of the CIA learn SERE techniques in September.

    In October of 2003, the Red Cross says US is abusing detainees at Guantanamo. And then in March-April of 2004, stories broke about other abuses there by the military.

    So that shows that the Department of Defense had been investigating SERE techniques for use since at least 2001, the findings were taught to the CIA, who used them. Then the whole policy spread throughout prisons in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and the CIA black sites.

    The military was actually opposed to torture and objected many different times to its use:

    The idea that torture is illegal, unethical and ineffective is well established in military circles. When elements of the military saw the interrogation plan being crafted by the White House, serious objections were raised. Those objections will be key to any prosecutions because they demonstrate that the White House should have been aware that what they were proposing was against the law.

    The architects of the torture program, however, seem aware of the power of those dissenting views and, according to the Senate report, repeatedly denied receiving them.

    Soon, the Air Force, Army, Navy and others voiced their objections. Nobody listened. They put their fingers in their ears and screamed. Then, of course, Rumsfeld signed off on the policy:

    Despite the broad and deep concerns within the military, Haynes recommended to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that the bulk of the practices be approved. On December 2, Rumsfeld signed off, famously scribbling in the margins: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”

    Right. I guess you torture and scapegoat the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to scapegoat at a later time.

    Then, once we invaded Iraq the troops started being, I guess, a military of whiners:

    Specialist Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National Guard unit set to roll into Iraq this week, was the first to step forward, saying that soldiers had had to scrounge through landfills here for pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass — what they called ”hillbilly armor” — to bolt to their trucks.

    ”Why don’t we have those resources readily available to us?” Specialist Wilson asked Mr. Rumsfeld, drawing cheers and applause from many of the 2,300 soldiers assembled in a cavernous hangar here to meet the secretary.

    There were a lot of these questions sincerely asked by our military, who just wanted to serve and be properly protected. A guy I went to school with, whom I hadn’t seen since sixth grade or so, died in Iraq because of faulty equipment near the beginning of the war.

    And naturally, Rumsfeld expressed empathy and respect for our troops:

    ”Now, settle down, settle down,” he said. ”Hell, I’m an old man, it’s early in the morning and I’m gathering my thoughts here.”


    ”You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up,” he said. ”And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up.”

    How sweet. You’re gonna get blown up, no matter what, so why should we waste money on your asses? Unless we’re paying to train people to torture for absolutely no reason. Then wasting money is perfectly fine. I mean, I stand eight hours a day, you can deal with some IEDs.

    Which, by the way, was the whole fucking point of the request for more armor. IEDs. The insurgents had switched tactics at that point, so while they were making roadside improvised explosive devices, our troops were stuck with no armor.

    And if for some reason you’re not completely pissed off yet, it gets a lot worse.

    The LA Times has Rumsfeld telling us why the troops were being screwed out of equipment:

    Rumsfeld responded that the Pentagon had taken steps to equip soldiers being sent to Iraq, but that factory production was limited. “It’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it.

    So it wasn’t that they were squandering money elsewhere or anything. It was a matter of physics. There was no one available to do any of the work to make sure the troops were equipped. That’s all. Not the administration’s fault. And nobody will ever say differently.

    Except… the people who make the equipment:

    WASHINGTON — The manufacturer of Humvees for the U.S. military and the company that adds armor to the utility vehicles are not running near production capacity and are making all that the Pentagon has requested, spokesmen for both companies said.

    “If they call and say, ‘You know, we really want more,’ we’ll get it done,” said Lee Woodward, a spokesman for AM General, the Indiana company that makes Humvees and the civilian Hummer versions.

    Why do O’Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt and AM General hate America?

    This is how enormous of a problem there was at the time:

    According to Army figures, there are almost 19,400 Humvees operating in the Iraq theater. Of those, about 5,900 were armored at the factory and armor was added to about 9,100 of them later.

    Other vehicles also lack armor. The House Armed Services Committee released statistics yesterday showing that most transport trucks crisscrossing Iraq to supply the troops don’t have armor. Only 10 percent of the 4,814 medium-weight transport trucks have armor, and only 15 percent of the 4,314 heavy transport vehicles do.

    Back to the LA Times article, for more screwing the troops:

    It took the Pentagon nearly a year after President Bush declared an end to “major combat operations” on May 1, 2003, to equip all soldiers with protective plates for their protective vests. War planners had initially equipped only “front line” units with the plates. But militants made it clear that any location could become a battle zone.

    The equipment problems were underscored in October when an Army Reserve supply unit south of Baghdad disobeyed a direct order to deliver fuel and other supplies to a base in northern Iraq. After an investigation into the incident, 23 members of the unit were given nonjudicial punishments, which could entail a reduction in rank and loss of pay.

    A WHOLE YEAR after Mission Accomplished to equip them with protective vests? And, of course, when the administration screws up, look who gets fucked.

    The guy who was president at the time, who’d authorized torture and training people to torture and military tribunals and rescinding Geneva Conventions protections and habeas corpus had this to say:

    “The concerns expressed are being addressed, and that is we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment,” the president said in response to a reporter’s question at the White House.

    “If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country, I’d want to ask the secretary of defense the same question, and that is, ‘Are we getting the best we can get us?'”


    “I’ve told many family I’ve met with, ‘We’re doing everything we possibly can to protect your loved ones.'”

    I. HATE. that. guy. Can we please arrest him? Can we please prosecute all of these fuckers? It was already sick enough to see these people bash the troops, and to see Bush speak at anti-torture conventions about American values and all of that. But THIS.

    They actively AVOIDED GIVING TROOPS ARMOR while fucking ordering them to torture.

    Not to be outdone, there’s more:

    “I think it’s good” that ordinary soldiers are given a chance to express their concerns to the defense secretary and senior military commanders, Rumsfeld told reporters during a visit to India.

    “It’s necessary for the Army to hear that, do something about it and see that everyone is treated properly,” Rumsfeld said, referring not only to the complaint about insufficient armor but also to another soldier’s statement about not getting reimbursed for certain expenses in a timely way.

    The military expressed reservations about torturing. Rumsfeld signed off. The military expressed reservations about being blown up by IEDs, Rumsfeld made smartass remarks.

    And this was right in the middle of torturing, when the administration was paying and training people to torture. This was around the time that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld testified after Abu Ghraib that:

    It’s my obligation to evaluate what happened, to make sure that those who have committed wrong-doing are brought to justice, and to make changes as needed to see that it doesn’t happen again.


    It’s important for the American people and the world to know that while these terrible acts were perpetrated by a small number of U.S. military, they were also brought to light by the honorable and responsible actions of other military personnel.

    I don’t even know what to say.

    The LA Times article mentions that it “would cost” $9.5 billion annually to keep the military properly equipped. I’d have much rather paid for that than torture.

    There were accusations at the time that one question by a person in the Army wasn’t his own, but was a reporter’s question. At the time, people were complaining. I’m glad it happened regardless of the controversy. Real people were really being blown up all the time, and I don’t care if it’s a reporter or a soldier who asks the question.

    Is any of this seriously going to be looked at? We won’t investigate torture anymore deeply than a few troops, we aren’t even getting access to how much money was spent, or if it was diverted from equipment to torture planning and training by the Department of Defense.

    In 2004, people were asking what is wrong with this picture:

    But is this a topic that anyone wants to examine ever? Last April, the photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shocked the world and put the treatment of prisoners in the headlines for several weeks. Then, Congressional hearings faded, military investigations were begun in all directions, a few individuals were tried without great publicity – and attention shifted to the presidential campaign, where no one was going to touch the issue.

    As Mark Danner points out in his book “Torture and Truth” (New York Review Books), in the end the lurid photos may have deflected the central question of what role torture may have played, or yet be playing, in American policy for waging a war on terror into the question of individual indiscipline and sadism – “Animal House on the night shift,” as former Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger called the Abu Ghraib atrocities.

    So I want to know. I want us to investigate torture. I want to know where our money went. I want to know if any money was diverted to pay for torture. And if so, who authorized it. And of course everything else that will never be uncovered if no investigations happen.

    Why can’t we look deeper into this?

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